East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) chief executive Scott Knowles reacts to today’s rail infrastructure announcement.
Commenting on the Government’s publication of the Integrated Rail Plan and its ramifications for the HS2 Eastern Leg, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) chief executive Scott Knowles said: “Today’s announcement comes as a bitter blow to communities in the East Midlands that have spent such a long time planning for the arrival of HS2, only to now be faced with a reneging on clear commitments repeatedly made by our country’s leaders.
Lost benefits of HS2 Eastern Leg
“From a practical perspective, we miss out on the majority of the transformational economic benefits that underpinned the HS2 case for the region. This would have included significantly enhanced connectivity both locally and with other major cities, increased capacity to help us deliver more frequent and reliable local services, as well as the significant wider investment opportunities that come with businesses basing themselves at such a well-connected location.
“It was also about creating economic prosperity in places such as Chesterfield and Staveley, where economic regeneration planning has hinged around the delivery of HS2.
“But it’s not just a case of what we could have had. Investment begets investment and the fact that the Western Leg has been given the green light places the East Midlands at a massive disadvantage. It risks further widening the East-West gap that is emerging alongside the more widely commented upon North-South divide.
“Of course, the proposed improvements within the Integrated Rail Plan, along with the long-needed electrification of the Midland Main Line, are positive developments. But these were always a part of our wider vision for HS2 in the East Midlands and electrification was promised many years ago – and has itself been the subject of multiple Government flip-flops over the past decade.
“As the Prime Minister himself has said, it should not be an either/or situation. We need these developments alongside HS2 to achieve the full benefits for the region.
A job half done
“Because make no mistake, this is a job half done. This has always been so much more than just a transport investment for the communities of the East Midlands and no matter how this is now spun, our joint vision that encompassed economic, environmental and societal benefits has been massively descoped.
“At a time when the Prime Minister is shouting from the rooftops about levelling up and saying no place will be left behind, this is a slap in the face to a region that already receives the lowest level of public expenditure on transport and economic affairs in the UK.
HS2 RELATED STORIES
“It also demonstrates massive disingenuity towards the climate change agenda despite the rhetoric surrounding COP26 earlier this month – our railways are at breaking point, and only through the additional capacity of HS2 would we be able to encourage people and freight off the roads in quantities meaningful enough to make a difference.
East Midlands must work together to move forward
“The decision not to build the Eastern Leg as originally planned undermines not only the benefits of the entire project but also trust in Government.
“It now rests on Westminster to explain in proper, technical detail exactly what it plans to deliver, as well as how and when, in order to prevent the East Midlands from being structurally disadvantaged for generations to come.
“For our own region, it’s never been more crucial for our political and business leaders to come together and prepare a collective response for how we move forward.”