Plans by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to instigate a review of the HS2 project have been criticised by business groups.
The independent review has been tasked with considering whether and how HS2 should proceed, using all existing evidence on the project to consider:
- its benefits and impacts
- affordability and efficiency
- deliverability and scope
- its phasing, including its relationship with Northern Powerhouse Rail
A final report will be sent to the Secretary of State, with oversight from the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, by the autumn. The report will inform the government’s decisions on next steps for the project. Limited, largely preparatory works, on the project will continue in parallel with the report’s work.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits. That’s why we are undertaking this independent and rigorous review of HS2.
“It will be led by Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel, who will consider all the evidence available, and provide the department with clear advice on the future of the project.”
Mr Oakervee said: “The Prime Minister has asked me to lead this important review into the HS2 programme. I looking forward to working with my deputy, Lord Berkeley, to advise the government on how and whether to progress with HS2, based on all existing evidence.”
Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “For the good of UK small firms and the economy as a whole, it’s vital that the HS2 project remains on track. The stop-start approach to major transport investment that’s held our economy back for decades has to end.
“Of course HS2 needs to represent value for money, and that starts with responsible procurement – bringing smaller firms into the supply chain wherever possible and paying them on time.
“HS2 should be seized by this government as an opportunity to back the small businesses that it so often claims to support, opening doors for them and setting the tone for future infrastructure projects. It would do well to remember that small firms bring a dynamism to supply chains that big corporates struggle to match.
“Wider job creation, inward investment and transport projects across the north of England and Midlands hinge on HS2’s completion. This project is not simply a nice to have. Done right, it will lay the foundations for a truly balanced UK economy.”
His thoughts were echoed by CBI Director of Infrastructure Tom Thackray, who said: “The business message on HS2 is clear-cut – back it, build it, benefit from it. The debate has gone round the houses too many times.
“While it’s always helpful to review major projects like HS2 to ensure that value for money is delivered, the business case is well known.
“The approval of HS2 Phase One
“We firmly believe that committing to HS2 in full, once and for all, will spread the flow of investment across the Midlands, the North of England and into Scotland. The current poor connectivity in the North is a major obstacle to encouraging companies from growing in the region and is a barrier to inward investment.”