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Chamber warns PM that HS2 downscaling will hurt the Black Country

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce has warned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that scrapping the HS2 line from Birmingham to Manchester would hinder efforts to unlock the potential of the region.

Sarah Moorhouse

Chamber chief executive Sarah Moorhouse has written to Mr Sunak outlining concerns if reports that the northern part of HS2 will not go ahead are true.

"If these reports are untrue, these rumours have created incalculable reputational damage to the UK and shaken investor confidence in the Midlands and the North; if these rumours are true, we consider this decision to be a mistake and strongly urge you to reconsider," she says.

She tells him the city of Wolverhampton and the boroughs of Sandwell, Walsall, and Dudley have a combined population of 1.5 m million and a strong manufacturing and steel production base.

"HS2 would be hugely beneficial to our region, bringing more jobs, more workers, and better transport links to the major economic centres of the country. Wolverhampton has had £150m investment into the local bus, metro, railway and cycle interchange, with the newest Metro extension opening just last week. The Black Country has an enormous amount of untapped potential, and HS2 would go a long way to unlocking this.

"Connecting towns in the north, east to west, with the Midlands and the south-east, is a huge part of keeping your Government’s promise to ‘level-up’ the country. Scrapping the HS2 project at this stage feels like a betrayal and an abandonment of the North.

"More than £1.7 billion worth of work (tier two contracts) has been secured by firms in the West Midlands, contracts that are allowing businesses to retain and employ new staff, expand their operations and purchase new plant and machinery. A total of 422 businesses in the West Midlands have been awarded work on HS2 across the whole supply chain. At a time where economic turbulence is negatively impacting business confidence, securing work on HS2 is a big boost for firms of all sizes, with many organisations going on to secure repeat contracts.

"Scrapping HS2 will leave us with the most expensive white elephant in UK history. It will undermine business and international confidence in our ability to stick to our word and deliver world-class infrastructure, as well as further exacerbate the gap between us and our European neighbours who are already miles ahead when it comes to high-speed rail connections between their major economic hubs," the chief executive has told the Prime Minister.

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