The chief executive of East Midlands Chamber says there are “No excuses for the HS2 Eastern Leg not to be built in full,” after the National Infrastructure Commission published recommendations earlier this week.
Responding to the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) Rail Needs Assessment Plan in which it outlines recommendations on the future of HS2, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) chief executive Scott Knowles said: “HS2 is the single-biggest transport infrastructure project in a generation and represents a huge opportunity for businesses, with the potential to unlock economic benefits of more than £4bn for the East Midlands and part of Yorkshire.
“By connecting the region with a first-class UK and Europe-wide rail network, it will bring enormous opportunities to local firms and make the East Midlands a much more attractive location for inward investment.
“However, these benefits for both the region and country will only be realised once it is delivered in full. That means the Eastern Leg being built exactly as the Government has promised all along, rather than a diluted version of this, and at pace.
“We will have major capacity issues on the Midland Main Line within the next two decades unless something is done to upgrade the rail network, so this needs to be addressed urgently. HS2 would achieve this, while also offering much-needed improvements in connectivity between the region’s towns and cities.
“However, this is so much more than just a railway line. It’s been great to see many parts of the East Midlands come together to commit to a blueprint for the future of the region that will bring economic growth and jobs. We have been very clear on our vision, which is built on the idea that the Toton hub station becomes a destination in its own right – a magnet for inward investment and an industrial hub that unlocks further development opportunities.
“The NIC’s report is therefore very concerning as it doesn’t take any of the regional growth plans into account and we absolutely do not accept its findings.
“Any suggestion that involves stopping HS2 at East Midlands Parkway would not work for the region, and has already been considered and dismissed from a feasibility perspective years ago.
“When the Government makes its decision about which option to include in its Integrated Rail Plan, it will have a clear choice between an exciting vision created by a region that’s focused on long-term growth and prosperity – one that will shape how we want our country to look as we leave the UK-EU transition period – and another that applies rough methodology, offers short-term logic and ultimately doesn’t deliver the same benefits.
“We have a plan that’s ready to go and it’s time the Government delivered on promises it has made so many times over the past 12 months since it firmly committed to the scheme – and in the years that preceded it.
“The East Midlands currently has the lowest transport spend per capita – £245 per head – of any region in the UK, receiving just 51% of the £483 UK average. The region is in desperate need of investment and finally putting any questions to bed on the HS2 Eastern Leg would go some way to proving the Government is serious about delivering on the ‘levelling-up’ agenda – a point on which it has repeatedly banged the drum without any serious proof of what this actually means.
“To do anything else would be a huge mistake, critically undermining the entire project and blowing a huge hole in Government rhetoric.”
Councillor Tricia Gilby, Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council has responded to the NIC publication. She said:
“We are hugely disappointed that of the options presented the National Infrastructure Commission does not recommend delivery of the eastern leg of HS2 in full. This directly conflicts with the Government’s pledge to levelling up in areas like ours. It also seriously undermines local plans for growth in the north and the midlands.
“After decades of underinvestment in strategic rail infrastructure, delivering HS2 is a once in a generation chance to transform connectivity, attract investment, create new jobs, build new homes, boost skills and opportunity and level-up communities across the North, Midlands and beyond. This is even more crucial to our economic future in optimising recovery from the pandemic, which has hit the North and Midlands hard.
“We have been working with our partners across the north and midlands for a number of years, making it clear that the full eastern leg is a critical requirement for Northern Powerhouse Rail as well as investing huge amounts of money in developing growth plans that will help our communities make the most of HS2.
“For Chesterfield, the failure to deliver the eastern leg in full means facing the prospect of reduced connectivity for our communities, as well as damaging the momentum we have built up around our ambitious comprehensive plans for both Staveley and the area around Chesterfield Station.
“In the Staveley area alone, planned growth worth at least £1bn has been catalysed by the planned HS2 maintenance depot. Taking this away would be a huge blow for an area that has had its hopes raised on the back of HS2’s plans and would leave a huge question mark over how we can deliver the ambitious growth plans our communities need and deserve.
“It is vital that the Eastern Leg of HS2 is delivered in full and that delivery starts as soon as possible. This is about more than just rail and trains – it’s about new jobs, new homes and new starts for communities that have been denied these opportunities over many years.
“This is a critical issue for Chesterfield and Staveley. I will not rest in working with council and business leaders along the planned Eastern Leg to hold Government to account and to ensure that the Prime Minister honours his commitment to deliver HS2 East in full. Time is of the essence to re-assert the strength of Chesterfield’s social and economic case ahead of Government’s planned publication of its Integrated Rail Plan.”
Dom Stevens, manager of Destination Chesterfield commented:
“Chesterfield is already moving forward with significant plans and developments so that the town can maximise the wide range of economic benefits HS2 has to offer.
“The originally proposed spur of the line arriving at Chesterfield Station will improve connectivity, journey times and capacity on our rail network locally and nationally, bringing with it vital investment opportunities.
“We would urge the NIC to rethink its recommendations and take into the account the huge strides our town has already made to regenerate its economy, with HS2 playing a huge role in attracting new people into the area to invest, live and work.”
Published: 16/12/2020 By:Radio Rewind Newsroom