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Rishi Sunak's HS2 decision disappoints business and transport groups in the Midlands

Business and transport groups in the Midlands have expressed disappointment at the Prime Minister's decision not to go ahead with HS2 north of Birmingham.

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Sarah Moorhouse

Sarah Moorhouse, chief executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are hugely disappointed in this decision from the Prime Minister to scrap HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester. This is a waste of a huge opportunity to not only level up the north, but also bring British rail infrastructure into the twenty-first century.

“Nevertheless, the decision is made. We look forward now to funding of the Midlands Rail Hub beginning without further delay and getting spades in the ground, as well as the extension of the West Midlands Metro.”

The chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Henrietta Brealey, said: “While the Prime Minister's speech was full of big promises, it was short on the practical reality of what cancelling Phase 2 of HS2 at this late stage actually means.

“No Phase 2 means no enhanced capacity for passengers or freight between Birmingham and Manchester. A huge amount of cost and disruption has already been incurred to prepare for Phase 2. Many projects, including some of those he highlighted, are predicated on the arrival of HS2.

“Faith in the Government to deliver on the long-term investments that this country needs to grow has been hugely damaged.

“It is time for the Prime Minister to be transparent on the costs of scrapping HS2 Phase 2 and how long it'll be before any of the projects he listed come to fruition, given that these savings won't become a reality until the 2030s.

“All we really have right now are short-term cuts and long term questions.”

Henrietta Brealey

Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect, said: "“We are disappointed and disheartened by the HS2 announcement.

“We must not start from scratch, we must work at pace to deliver HS2 Phase 1 all the way to Euston. There are also lessons to be learnt from the HS2 story so far.

“The Midlands Rail Hub and road programmes including the A5 which have been announced today resonate with us, these are our transformational East-West priorities for the region, which we recommended and have been progressing with Government.

“We are now calling for more detail on timescales and plan of action, and asking for a high-level urgent meeting with ministers, to ensure these plans and the benefits for the Midlands are delivered as quickly as possible.

“We will now work, like we always do, cross-party and in an open and collaborative way with all involved.”

Rain Newton-Smith, chief executive of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The UK has incredible strengths as a destination for investment. When global boardrooms weigh up investment opportunities, the UK was always seen as a safe harbour due to our reputation for reliability. But the decision to cancel the rest of the HS2 project sends a damaging signal about the UK’s status as global destination for investment.

“Businesses and investors in the Midlands and the North have spent the last decade planning for the delivery of HS2. The commitment to invest in a new Network North programme of transport projects promises much needed investment to the region. But a 'start from scratch' approach risks leaving those businesses in a holding pattern of poor connectivity and low productivity whilst those projects are scoped, prepped and finally delivered.”

Darren Caplan, Railway Industry Association chief executive said that many of the Railway Industry Association’s members were extremely disappointed by the decision to scrap HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester.

“The Government cites cost as its main reason for scrapping Phase 2, yet it should be remembered that this was the Government’s own scheme, built to its own specifications, and that the chopping and changing of the scope and timing of the project – adding considerably cost and delay – was entirely of the Government’s own making. Every time the scheme is rescoped it increases the cost.

“Scrapping HS2 Phase 2 is simply unnecessary and squanders the full benefits of Phase 1. The Government can work with metro mayors, the railway industry, rail suppliers, and other stakeholders, to agree a cost-effective way forward, including encouraging private investment to take pressure off the public purse.

“Today’s nuclear option is defeatist and sends a terrible signal to potential overseas investors that the UK simply cannot deliver large national transport infrastructure schemes.

Marco Forgione, Director General at the Institute of Export and International Trade, said the decision to scrap the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 was cause for significant concern.

"Internationally, the decision to scrap it at this stage is likely to call into question the UK’s ability to both plan and deliver major infrastructure projects.

"It’s critical to remember that the commitment to HS2 wasn’t just about passengers, it was also about building capacity for the future and securing enhanced, more sustainable freight connections. Firms both in the UK and overseas have made investment decisions based on HS2 to Manchester being delivered.

"The Prime Minister’s commitment to reinvest the money saved from scrapping HS2 to Manchester in a series of infrastructure upgrades across the country is positive news, and the business community will be eager to hear the details with a clear delivery timetable.

Laurence Turner, head of research and policy for the GMB union, said: “Rishi Sunak’s decision to inflict the biggest rail cut since the Beeching axe will send a shockwave through the construction industry and railway supply chain, costing hundreds of jobs.

“The UK’s political instability was already holding the economy back _ it will now be even harder to fund and deliver the new infrastructure that the country desperately needs.

“We can’t rebalance the economy or fix the railway capacity crisis without HS2. It’s essential that the planned route is now protected so that a future government can reverse this disastrous decision.”