Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire Chambers of Commerce Annual Dinner

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Plans for significant road and rail transport investment in the east midlands, including High Speed 2

I was delighted to be invited to speak this evening.

Because the transport sector is deep in this area’s DNA.

It was on the local iron, stone, and coal that the first railways were forged.

And today (28 March 2014) is also the one hundred and fifty first anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry Royce.

Just one of the east midland’s many pioneering business leaders, whose genius made the region the foundry for the prosperity of the nation. So I can think of few places more appropriate to discuss the importance of transport to the country’s economic success.

I was also delighted that Matthew Parris is our after dinner speaker this evening.

And, as many of you will know, he was my predecessor as the Member of Parliament for West Derbyshire.

Another of our forerunners in the House was The Duke of Devonshire.

It is said that 1 day he turned to a colleague and remarked:

How I hate having to make a speech.

To which his companion replied:

I don’t mind making a speech a bit, I just can’t bear listening.

So with that in mind I will keep my remarks this evening brief. I’d like to talk about why we are making a record investment in Britain’s transport network and what that means for the region. And why for our long term prosperity we need High Speed 2, the first new north – south railway for a hundred years.

I recently re-read Matthew’s maiden speech in the House of Commons. He said he hoped to regenerate prosperity and galvanise the entrepreneurs.

That’s an aspiration that is as necessary today as it was then.

Because, just as when Matthew was speaking in 1979, our central challenge today is the economy.

We went into the crisis with the biggest structural deficit in the G7 and with the most leveraged households and banks of any major economy.

As a result, UK GDP contracted faster than anytime since the 1970s.

And the force of that recession was felt harder here than anywhere else in England.

However, as a result of the tough decisions we have taken there are signs the economy is returning to health. The deficit is down by a third. The Bank of England has raised its forecast for growth this year to 3.4%.

Unemployment has fallen by 6.1% since 2010, with over one and a half million more jobs created in the private sector.

Indications are that all sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, are growing across the country.

But the recovery is not yet secure and our economy is still too unbalanced.

While the economy grew between 1997 and 2008 it was not broad based. London and the south-east grew quickly, fuelled a banking and housing boom.

While other parts of the country, including the east Midlands, fell behind.

We want to grow the economy, but want growth that is balanced across all regions and a range of sectors.

As a country, that means we need to make and export more, we need more businesses like Master Mover in Ashbourne, that are exporting goods, designed and built in Britain, across the world.

That’s why we are determined to cut taxes and reduce regulation to help your businesses grow. We have cut corporation tax again and again, and from next year it will be the lowest in the G20 and one of the lowest in the world.

But we didn’t just inherit a fiscal deficit, we inherited an infrastructure deficit too.

Over the last few years there has been a huge increase in the demand on our transport network.

Traffic on the roads in the east Midlands has been growing twice as fast as the average over the past ten years and rail usage in the region has more than doubled since 1996.

But investment didn’t keep up with demand. Less was invested in Britain infrastructure than in 1998 in every single year until 2011.

As a result, nearly half of respondents to a CBI survey rated the UK’s transport network as well below average. In 2012 World Economic Forum ranked UK only 24th on the quality of overall infrastructure.

The result of that lack of investment has been congestion on the roads and commuters crowding in and standing up on our railways.

It has created costs for business and choked economic growth. As the economy returns to growth, to keep our country moving we are investing record amounts upgrading and expanding Britain’s roads and rail.

Investment that, according to the International Monetary Fund, will improve the long-run growth potential of the economy.

We are making the biggest investment to improve Britain’s road network for a generation, including the A453.

This vital artery carries around 30,000 vehicles a day but it is congested and has a poor safety record. That means unnecessary costs for businesses of around £100,000 a year.

So we are investing £150 million to widen the road, speed up journeys and improve safety and the work will be completed by summer next year.

As well as improving our roads we are making the biggest investment in expanding and improving Britain’s railways since the Victorians. Helping to meet passenger demand that has doubled since privatisation.

We are building a new station at Ilkeston. That will finally reconnect the town to the network for the first time since the 1960s.

We are rebuilding Nottingham station to turn it into a fitting gateway to the city. Two and half million more people used the station last year compared to 1997. That meant it had become overcrowded and unpleasant to use. So we are investing £100 million to re-signal and redesign the station. It is improving the reliability of trains and reducing delays. It will also create the capacity needed to cope with more passengers as the city’s economy grows.

We have also invested £70 million to upgrade 159 miles of track on the East Midlands Mainline. That’s enabled trains to run at 125 miles per hour and meant not only a faster, but a more reliable service.

We will electrify the line from London to Derby and Nottingham by 2019/ That will cut journey times further still.

With electrification the largest containers can travel on rail between the East Midlands and our ports, helping to cut the costs for business of moving goods by rail.

Our investment in our transport infrastructure is also creating and safeguarding jobs in the region.

That’s why I was delighted that the new Crossrail rolling stock will be manufactured by Bombardier. 65 trains will be built in Derby, with over 1,000 jobs and around 100 apprenticeships supported in the UK. And as well as direct employment it will also create many more jobs across the region throughout the supply chain.

We are investing to build a modern, twenty-first century, transport infrastructure in Britain.

In total we are investing over £56 billion on roads, rail and local transport between 2015 and 2021. An investment that backs Britain’s future economic growth. And investment in a reliable network, providing the capacity you need.

So you can get supplies in, products delivered on time and reach new export markets.

As well as investing to improve and expand our existing infrastructure we also need to build new capacity to keep people and goods moving on the rail network.

Total passenger demand between the east Midlands and London is expected to grow by 28 percent over the next 10 years. Peak time demand in Leicester, Nottingham and Derby is expected to be grow by a third. And rail freight traffic in the east Midlands is forecast to increase by a quarter.

That’s why we will also build High Speed 2.

HS2 will cut journey times between our major population cities. Bringing the economies of the north and Midlands within easy reach of London.

It will release capacity for more inter-city services on the existing East Coast Mainline and Midlands Mainline and it will also free up much needed space for additional commuter services on the West Coast and East Coast mainlines.

Towns and cities not directly connected to the line will also see benefits. Network Rail analysis shows that Leicester and Loughborough could have quicker, more frequent journeys and faster connections.

In total HS2 will create at least 1,600 jobs in the region directly and it will boost productivity by £2.2 billion a year within five years of the railway opening.

I’m sure you will have heard some people aren’t convinced by the need for a new line.

Some have argued that the money we are investing in HS2 would be better spent upgrading the existing mainlines.

We have recently spent around £10 billion and ten years upgrading the West Coast Mainline. That has enabled far more frequent, faster services. More than 1,100 extra trains each week and a 50% increase in trains to Manchester and Birmingham.

But just 6 years later, the West Coast Mainline is already effectively full and expanding it further, where possible, is difficult and expensive.

Other people have suggested that we should do more to increase capacity on the East Coast Mainline and Midland Mainline.

Well, the answer is we are already doing so. We have already invested over £500 million to upgrade the East Coast Mainline with a further £240 million over the next five years and more than half a billion on the Midland Mainline.

But none of these options deliver what we need.

The problem is the existing lines carry local commuter services, fast inter-city trains and slow moving freight. Even if we spent £20 billion patching and mending the existing main lines it would deliver less than half the benefits of HS2. And it would mean closing the East Coast and Midland Mainline at the weekend for up to 14 years.

I’ve also read the claim that HS2 will result in slower journeys from Nottingham to London.

Electrification of the mainline means that journeys will be quicker than today. All towns or cities which currently have a direct service to London will retain comparable or better services once HS2 is completed.

Some people have also expressed concern about damage to the environment from the construction of HS2.

We take this very seriously indeed and we are absolutely determined to minimise the environmental impact of the line. That’s why we have undertaken one of the most detailed Environmental Impact Assessment ever.

I think the bigger picture is that there are 140,000 heavy goods vehicle journeys made in the east Midlands each day of the year. HS2 will provide space for at least an extra 20 mainline freight paths with each extra freight train typically taking 40 lorries off our roads. That will ease congestion and reduce carbon emissions permanently.

Some people are, rightly, concerned about the costs of HS2.

For too long this country’s track record in delivering major infrastructure projects was poor. But I think that’s increasingly no longer the case. Crossrail shows that we can deliver major infrastructure on time and on budget.

We will build the new line for £42.6 billion, including £14.4 billion of contingency, and not a penny more.

I mentioned that today (28 March 2014) would have been Sir Henry Royce’s one hundred and fifty-first birthday.

He said that we should:

Take the best that exists and make it better. If it doesn’t exist, create it. Accept nothing as nearly right or good enough.

It’s that attitude that has made the east Midlands home to outstanding businesses, to cutting edge universities and home to the world’s best transport engineering sector.

I believe that faster more frequent connections with customers and suppliers will help you compete, grow and create jobs and I hope that the Chambers of Commerce will continue to be an important and influential advocate for the benefits HS2 will bring.

Thank you for listening.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.