One of the benefits of working for the Chamber of Commerce network around the country is that I see businesses in every town, city and county, and nowhere is there greater enthusiasm for the HS2 project than in the big cities of the Midlands and the North. When you think about the step change that will be achieved in making that particular journey once we have this new line in place, it truly will be transformative. But what we also know is that once HS2 opens as a purely passenger line, we’ll have great new capacity available on the West Coast Mainline and some of the branch lines so that we can get more freight through. That makes businesses more competitive. It means more commuter services. It means more chances for nearby towns to be connected to centres of services employment, and that’s hugely critical to us because it means more businesses getting access to a better and bigger labour pool.
If you break down HS2 over the lifetime of the project, it is a small fraction of the total amount of money being spent on transport. It’s dwarfed by spending on the rail network in general, on roads and on other projects. So it’s really difficult to say that this project will simply suck money away from the rest of our infrastructure. And make no mistake, Chambers of Commerce will not allow money to be sucked away from our other infrastructure to pay for one project alone. Effectively it’s either HS2 or bust for this money. We need it because we need the capacity, and we also know that the alternatives don’t deliver.