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Chamber says HS2 already benefiting region

Business leaders are confident a Government-backed review into HS2 will provide further proof of the project’s transformational impact on the West Midlands and other UK regions.

The Department of Transport today announced the review which will be led by former HS2 and Crossrail chairman Douglas Oakervee, with a final report into the project due to be released in the autumn. The report will consider the project’s benefits, impacts, affordability, efficiency, deliverability, scope and phasing.

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner said the region is already experiencing tangible benefits of the high-speed rail scheme, through improved investor confidence and opportunities created by preparatory works.    

But he warned a ‘stop-start’ approach from the Government could hamper business confidence and create “disenfranchisement” in the UK regions.

Mr Faulkner said: “Today’s announcement that Douglas Oakervee will be conducting an independent review on HS2 has not come as a surprise.  I’m just hopeful the findings of the review will reiterate what we already know in Greater Birmingham – notably that it is a game-changing project which will unlock prosperity in our region and beyond for decades to come.

“While any project of this scale needs to deliver value for money, we cannot overstate the impact HS2 has already had on investor confidence in the region and the opportunities already being created by the preparatory works already under way. Try telling the thousands of people working on the programme or the numerous SMEs in its supply chain that HS2 hasn’t delivered real and tangible change.

“I would urge the panellists to also bear in mind that HS2 is one of few schemes that has long-standing support from all the main political parties in Parliament and its creation has played a vital role in driving private sector investment across the country, whilst fostering an air of optimism that was certainly lacking in our great city of Birmingham for example before its inception.

“With a general election potentially on the horizon, I would urge politicians to keep this sentiment in mind before they make any short-sighted statements on the validity of HS2 during the review period.

“Let’s not forget that it is this myopic style of thinking which has contributed to the current gridlock we all see in Parliament and to the mood of dissatisfaction amongst the general public who are increasingly viewing  the developments at Westminster with a sense of dismay.

“For years, we’ve seen numerous examples of the Government dither when it comes to committing to and delivering large scale infrastructure projects and the painful effects have been all too clear for regions up and down the country. Continuing with this stop-start approach will simply derail much-needed local investment plans, have a negative impact on business confidence and most worryingly add to the feeling of disenfranchisement that we see in communities across the UK.

“Post-Brexit, what better way for this country to reaffirm its eminence and standing in the world than by delivering a top quality infrastructure project which will genuinely transform our society and help connect and bring disparate communities across the country together - this is what HS2 represents and that's why it needs to be delivered in full.”

Phase One of the route from London to Birmingham is scheduled for completion in 2026, but Phases 2A and 2B are yet to receive Royal Assent.

Pictured: Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner

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