By Duncan Brodie
Monday, January 28, 2013
BUSINESS leaders today welcomed Government plans for extending the new HS2 high-speed rail link – but there was a warning that the need to address failings within the existing network, including East Anglia’s main line, must not be ignored.
Proposed routes taking the new HS2 (High Speed Two) line to Manchester and Leeds, adding to the London-Birmingham route already announced, were unveiled yesterday, with the £32.7billion project expected to create at least 100,000 jobs.
Besides the impact of the new tracks on the countryside, sceptics claim the economic case for the lines does not stack up and that the new high-speed services will chiefly benefit London and the South-East by attracting investment away from the Midlands and the North.
John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday that he believed the plans for HS2 (HS1 beinig the existing high speed link from London to the Channel Tunnel) were likely to be of economic benefit to the UK as a whole.
However, he added: “Ministers cannot and must not ignore the immediate priorities which are to sort out the failings in the existing network.
“In the East of England, investment by the Government in the Great Eastern Mail Line is a tiny fraction of what is required for HS2. It would though deliver massive benefits to the East Anglian economy and substantial benefits to UK plc.”
Similar views were expressed on a national basis by CBI director-general John Cridland. He said the plans showed “the same bold, long-term thinking that helped the Victorians build our original network” and would help to drive growth.
But he added: “HS2 cannot be built in isolation so we need sustained, additional capital investment in existing road and rail networks to meet increased demand.”
Steve Radley, policy director at the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, said: “Having made a commitment to both stages of High Speed Two by extending it to the North, the Government must now demonstrate that it has a credible plan to deliver this on time.
“This would send an important signal to business about Britain as a place to invest.”