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East Midlands Chamber News

East Midlands businesses demand HS2 certainty


The business community in the East Midlands is stepping up calls for more certainty around HS2.


With the legislation required to deliver Phase 2b due later in this Parliament, the project is reaching an important moment in time. Businesses are concerned that wider awareness of the project is still relatively low and with other external pressures such as Brexit, it is important that the positive messages of what HS2 can bring to the region are amplified.


The call comes as business leaders and politicians from the East Midlands, West Midlands and North of England have signed an open letter to the UK’s four biggest political parties urging them to publicly commit to deliver HS2 in full, connecting the Midlands and the North and helping to rebalance the economy. A delegation will join Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Lilian Greenwood, Nottingham North MP and Chair of the Commons Transport Select Committee, for a parliamentary reception today, to reinforce the benefits of HS2 Phase Two.


As well as adding much needed capacity and improving journey times to and from the East Midlands to other parts of the country, HS2 will also provide the foundation for future growth across the whole region. With proposals being discussed for an official ‘development body’ to be installed to lead and stimulate growth around Toton – the proposed site for the HS2 station in the East Midlands - and other key areas, HS2 will play a much bigger role than simply providing faster rail journeys.


Alongside other key growth areas such as East Midlands Airport and the East Midlands Gateway, HS2 will be the step-change that the region needs to drive improved inward investment and business relocation. This, in turn, would lead to greater job creation, new housing and communities, and improved quality of life for people living and working in the region.


The call from businesses comes following recent suggestions that HS2 project costs are rising and it risks falling behind schedule. The recent resignation of Chief Executive Sir Terry Morgan, amid controversy surrounding another of the government’s major rail projects, Crossrail, has also cast a shadow over the project. While last week it was revealed the new HS2 Chief Executive Mark Thurston had said that train speeds and the number of services could be reduced to keep the project within budget and schedule.


Chaired by Ian Morgan, who takes over as Chair at East Midlands Chamber at the end of this month and is a Director of the Wellglade group which owns Trentbarton, Kinchbus and other bus operators, the East Midlands HS2 Business Advisory group includes representatives from Rolls Royce, East Midlands Airport, KPMG, FSB, the IoD, the Rail Forum East Midlands, Nottingham Trent University, enfec, Bowmer and Kirkland, the CBI, Geldards LLP and the National Housing Federation.


Ian Morgan says: “HS2 is arguably the most significant single piece of investment that this region will have experienced. The knock-on effect will be felt further and wider than anything that has happened before. The way the we respond to it requires some radical thinking as it has the potential to re-shape the entire region, not just economically but also geographically. The needs of business need to be heard to ensure that the region continues to be an attractive option for inward investment, growth and the sort of place a skilled workforce wants to relocate to. We need to keep banging the drum for HS2 and a strong business voice will be critical to this.”


Key to realising some of the benefits of HS2 is ensuring that the Toton station is properly connected to a rapid integrated public transport network so that people from Derby, Leicester and Nottingham can get to and from it and sites such as East Midlands Airport and the easily. Equally important will be a link to and from Toton and East Midlands Airport. Leading businesses in the region who have expertise in this area have been challenged by the Advisory Group to come up with some innovative ideas for how this might be achieved.


Ian added: “In our region we have some of the world’s largest companies whose expertise is designing transport solutions. It would be a missed opportunity not to have their input and views on how the region can be connected. The solutions might not even exist yet but it’s this sort of radical thinking that we need to do if we’re going to succeed.”


As well as new Hub station at Toton, HS2 will stimulate regeneration plans in Chesterfield and Staveley.


Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles said: "As the UK wrestles with what it’s future may look like, one thing all agree on is that we want to be an outward facing, innovative, high-technology country that can collaborate and compete on the world stage. HS2 helps us achieve that.


"It's much more than just a railway line - it's a catalyst for regeneration and growth in the East Midlands up to 2033, when it goes live, and beyond. Done right, it can be a springboard for shaping the future East Midlands economy to attract business and talen from around the world. It's essential that it gets the green light for the go ahead as soon as possible."