Posted by

Tom Nolan

28 Apr 2014

The planned high speed rail line from London to Birmingham, and eventually beyond, will be one of the most important and ambitious projects undertaken in the UK for decades. But before work can start Parliament needs to legislate for its construction. Most Parliamentary Bills follow a standard route and they usually become law within a year. The HS2 Bill will be different. In Parliamentary terms it will be known as a Hybrid Bill. This will mean it will spend longer in Committee than a normal Bill and could take up to twice as long to pass all Parliamentary stages.

The HS2 Bill was introduced a few months ago and is only receiving its second reading today. At second reading the MPs won’t debate the detail of the Bill – that will happen in Committee. Instead they will debate the general principles; or simply, whether they agree with the decision to build a high speed line or not.

The BCC have been long-time supporters of a fully national High Speed Rail network. There are three key arguments that underpin our support for HS2:

Capacity - Future business success depends on infrastructure networks that meet demand. Detailed research makes it clear that the three North-South main lines will all reach their effective capacity in the next fifteen years. Piecemeal, sticking-plaster upgrades to existing routes will not solve Britain’s looming rail capacity crunch. So for businesses, failure to progress HS2 would be a massive setback, because no other solution fully addresses the capacity question.

Investment - Construction of HS2 is a vital part of the UK investment story. It is the best sort of radical infrastructure investment – delivering major supply chain benefits to UK companies of all sizes during the construction phase, and unlocking significant follow-on business investment in towns and cities. Repeated campaigns against major infrastructure schemes serve only to undermine future investment in regeneration and innovation.

Employment - There are clear employment benefits to HS2 – during both the construction phase and thereafter. Expert research suggests tens of thousands of construction jobs, and hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs as a result of future business investment. HS2 also would allow the UK to maintain key construction skills for the long-term – something that has not been done during years of stop-start decision making on infrastructure projects, to the UK detriment.

We urge all political parties to put short-term interests to one side and work together with Sir David Higgins and his team to make this key infrastructure project a reality as quickly as possible.

But the Government, with cross-party support, must also speed-up the delivery of other, complementary transport investments – such as the billions being spent now to improve the conventional rail network in all parts of the United Kingdom, as well as planned road investments. Transformational infrastructure investment must include HS2, but not be limited to it.