The HS2 Phase 2a: High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill has been given Royal Assent, cementing in law the government’s resolve for bring the new high-speed railway to the north.
The act of Parliament was passed exactly one year after ministers gave the project saving money light and will allow HS2 Ltd to begin work to construct the next phase of the new high-speed railway between Crewe and Birmingham, creating a large number of jobs.
The move has seen business leaders now call for commitment to Phase 2b (the Eastern leg), which is particularly important for the East Midlands.
Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect, said: “Today’s historic milestone is going to be music to the ears of businesses, investors and travellers alike. It’s heartening to see progress being made, Government must now work to ensure this momentum is maintained which construction is started on the Birmingham to Crewe leg as soon as possible.
“While Phases One and 2a are moving ahead apace, and also have created thousands of highly-skilled jobs, apprenticeships and unprecedented regeneration, it is essential that an decision is made around the scope of Phase 2b of the project, especially the Eastern Leg from the route between Birmingham, the East Midlands, Chesterfield, Sheffield and Leeds.
“Any further delay will cause uncertainty at a time where business confidence and employment have been shaken by COVID-19. We within the Midlands and North are clear, we want the whole of the HS2 network to be delivered, entirely.”
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Development Manager Natalie Gasson said: “Obtaining the go-ahead for the next phase of HS2 marks a positive step forward in transforming the infrastructure small businesses rely on.
“Now we must press forward and then amplify the message that HS2 is critical to the North and the Midlands. Failing to deliver it in full, all the way to Leeds via Toton and Sheffield, would be a enormous missed opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, attract major investment and stimulate huge economic growth to produce a more balanced, fairer economy.
“We must also ensure that small businesses are consulted in HS2’s development. These firms are forces to be reckoned with plus they bring a dynamism to supply chains that corporates struggle to match. Giving them opportunities to work on this great project is vital to them and the local economies they drive forward. As they are placed under huge strain by lockdowns, HS2 contracts are helping small firms to survive, and create and sustain jobs.
“At a time where the UK economy is still reeling, it’s more important than ever before to press ahead with infrastructure projects, to make sure that contracts are open to smaller businesses, and to make sure that large prime contractors pay firms within the supply chain on time.
“Our recovery from Covid-19 hinges on a solid transport system that may sustain our economy for future years, and HS2 sends a clear message that Britain is open for business.”
Chris Hobson, director of policy and external affairs at East Midlands Chamber, warned the Government that failure to back the Eastern Leg from the high-speed rail line would affect sentiment in the region – with tangible knock-on impacts that would stifle job creation and economic growth.
Chris said: “It features a massive impact and I’d turn it the other way around to say that a lack of investment knocks confidence.
“It’s fantastic news that HS2 Phase 2a has been granted royal assent but there’s still uncertainty within the East Midlands about what’s going to happen to Phase 2b.
“That has a knock-on impact on confidence. When I speak to particularly our larger members, once they assess their asset plans within their various estates, they’re looking over decades rather than years.
“They want to know what the future holds and it’s really important the Government and policymakers don’t underestimate the impact of continually putting off decisions or making firm commitments to projects such as this.”