There has been a long and continuing debate regarding the proposed benefits of HS2. The government vows that the high-speed rail network will drive prosperity and economic growth beyond London.
The plans include an approved line from London Euston to Birmingham and the West Midlands and further plans, yet to be confirmed, linking the West Midlands to Manchester, Leeds and beyond.
Other voices argue that HS2 will do the opposite and will further exacerbate the north-south divide which has shaped the country. The main issues from this perspective are environmental, socio-economic and concerns that London will feel more benefit compared to rest of the country. So, the question remains, who will really benefit from HS2?
London is and was going to benefit
The government definitely come with an eye on driving economic growth outside of London, but London will significantly take advantage of this new rail network. A high-speed transport link into the centre of London will only increase the range of the commuter belt that has already expanded far beyond London. This boosts the talent pool for the capital and will ultimately drive business in to the city, benefitting the order books of London’s short stay serviced apartments, hotels and wider hospitality industry.
What will travel the other way?
Yes, London will benefit, but prosperity should travel out of London over time. With the expanding commuter belt and increased connectivity of major cities, local economies should see more interest in local housing and amenities. Increasing overheads in the capital may also encourage more companies to relocate to the fast-growing cities of the Midlands and North, where operating cost is far cheaper.
It is a fair argument that HS2 will probably cater to the higher socio-economic classes and business travellers. This really is likely to mean that the initial benefit of the high-speed rail network are only felt by those who are able to use it, with prosperity trickling over years or decades, if.
What does the East Midlands stand to gain?
Approval of the route connecting Birmingham towards the East Midlands and beyond would bring companies and local authorities a sense of confidence in the government’s actual need to level-up the country.
Whether the high-speed network would actually drive significant prosperity and economic development in the East Midlands is another matter. There would certainly be the benefit of better transport links and capacity to and from the region, that could have a knock-on effect to local businesses. However, any real impact would surely take decades to exhibit.