The government warns that any alternative to the HS2 would lead to 14 years of rail disruption. Can London afford for HS2 to not go ahead?
Last month the UK government commissioned a fifth report on the HS2 rail project. The findings published in the research said that if the investment went in a different direction than the project designed to cut journey times between London, the Midlands and the North of England it would disrupt rail travel. Upgrading existing lines, like the East Coast, Midland and West Coast mainlines, as suggested by opponents to HS2, would lead to 14 years of weekend route closures and longer journeys.
The first planned phase of HS2 is London to Birmingham, the second to Manchester and Leeds. Cutting journey times to and from the capital is seen as an important commercial step for the UK. In the newly published report the benefit-cost ratio is £2.30 for every pound spent. Even though the estimated budget is £42.6bn, for now, the project is seen as vital to bring the UK’s transport infrastructure up to date, making it easier and quicker to travel around the country. Journey times to Birmingham are cut by 35 minutes, to Nottingham by 36 minutes, Sheffield by 46 minutes and Manchester by an hour.
There has been opposition because of the cost of the project, the disruption to travel while the work is on-going and the negative impact of house and property prices for those living along the proposed route but this latest report by Network Rail and Atkins is designed to allay those fears. While upgrading existing lines might seem like a more cost-effective idea, in fact this report suggests it will end up costing more money in time spent travelling and disruption in the long term.
Having supported business travellers looking for extended stay accommodation in London for 25 years, Clarendon serviced apartments has seen the growing need for investment to improve transport in and out of the capital. The UK’s infrastructure is out of date and if the country is to globally compete for jobs and the businesses then it needs to have the finest infrastructure it can to compete with its European cousins. HS2 is designed to make travel in and out of the capital easier. For firms in the North and the Midlands, improved and quicker travel to London makes it more cost-effective for them to do business in the capital, opening new avenues of commerce and helping them to grow. It fosters partnerships and makes the business community in one of the most significant commercial capitals of the world more accessible to a growing number of small and medium sized firms.
HS2 is a boon for the North and the Midlands but it is also vital for London. As property becomes more expensive in the capital there is a fear that younger and creative professionals will be encouraged to move out of the capital and work elsewhere. If that were the case then improving transport links in and out of London so that the capital could still benefit from their entrepreneurialism and creativity would be vital. The whole of the UK would benefit from HS2 and it would be a welcome boost for business.