While the government’s rationale for building HS2 is to boost the national economy, bosses here fear the line will damage their profits.
Forty per cent of businesses living close to the line think HS2 will have a ‘very negative’ impact on them.
They are deeply concerned about the extra traffic jams hitting their profits during eight years of construction.These hold-ups are predicted to cost the Bucks economy more than £40 million a year.
Then there is the impact HS2 will have on the tourism industry, which accounts for 20,000 jobs in Bucks. The county council fears the reputation of Bucks as a tourist destination ‘could be damaged forver’ by the line’s construction, potentially costing hundreds of jobs.
There might be some crumbs of comfort though.
Restaurants and hotels hope there will be a boost in trade from hundreds of extra workers in the town while the line is being built.
And in Aylesbury Vale alone there will be close to a 1,000 construction jobs up for grabs, which HS2 Ltd has said it will look to give locals wherever possible.
Once the £50bn line is built there will be nearly 300 jobs available at the infrastructure maintenance depot in Calvert.
However, Philipa Batting, boss of Bucks Business First, which represents many of the county’s firms, said: “We remain sceptical of the claimed economic benefits to the country as a whole, while our own research demonstrates the project will cost the Buckinghamshire economy millions of pounds in addition to the environmental damage and loss of areas of outstanding natural beauty.
“While most Buckinghamshire businesses are not in favour of the project owing to the threat of relocation and years of transport disruption associated with construction, a minority of our members, most notably in the accommodation and food service sector, believe HS2 will offer opportunities for their businesses during construction.
“If the project goes ahead, Buckinghamshire Business First will work with the county’s businesses to achieve the best outcomes for them, whether in finding new premises, replacing staff, travel planning or maximising benefits from HS2’s supply chain opportunities.”
The government plans to build a specialist college to train up workers for HS2’s construction. It’s location is still to be decided.
Ben Ruse, HS2 Ltd lead spokesman said: “It’s very important that people aren’t dismissive of the depth of opportunity that HS2 will provide.
“Constructing and designing a railway over the course of 10 years will mean there is no shortage of jobs along the route.
“There will be opportunities for local businesses of all sizes to jump on board and get involved through the many supply chain contracts that will be on offer.
“HS2 will support 400,000 jobs across the country. For example, the new depot in Calvert is set to deliver 300 jobs alone, while the new elite training college will open the door for young people and untapped talent to develop their existing skills to pursue an exciting career in high speed rail.”
Secretary of State for business Vince Cable said of the college:“It is right that a large scale investment in bricks and mortar should also come with investment in the elite skills which will help build it.”
AT A GLANCE
Bucks economy is worth £11.8bn annually, with around 30,000 businesses offering 220,000 jobs. There are more than 3,100 businesses within 3km of the HS2 route. Bucks County Council says this means up to 10% of businesses here ‘will be severely impacted by both the construction and operational phases, not least from changed traffic patterns and flows’.
Cost during construction:
Oxford Economics found the economic effect of HS2 construction in Bucks to be a cost of £44m per year, resulting from travel delays and increased traffic.
More difficulty borrowing:
It is feared that as values of business properties near the HS2 line fall, so it will be harder for firms to gain secured lending from banks.
HS2 Ltd only 10 jobs in the Vale will be ‘displaced’ by HS2’s construction.
Hit on tourism:
Tourism provides 20,000 (8.9%) of jobs in Bucks. There are around 55 million trips to the Chilterns, contributing £471m to the economy. Bucks County Council fears the ‘reputation of Bucks as a tourist destination could be damaged forever’. Access to Wendover Woods ‘will be hampered’ due to the line, ‘further reducing footfall’.
Taking business out of Bucks:
The government is very keen to highlight regions which will benefit from the new line, but there will also be losers. This includes Bucks, which will be nearly £93 million worse off every year as a result of HS2 moving business elsewhere, figures from consultants KPMG suggest.
Business fears over HS2:
The Buckinghamshire Business Survey 2013 asked firms about the impact HS2 would have on them. 21% said it would be very negative, rising to 40% of those within 3km of the proposed route. Businesses in human health/social work (20%) and accommodation/food service (18%) were most likely to rate the scheme positively while 56% of those engaged in real estate activities were most likely to rate it negatively. For Aylesbury Vale, 25% of businesses thought it would impact ‘very negatively’ and 5% thought ‘very positive’, with 61% saying it would have neither a positive nor negative effect.
Contrast with East-West Rail:
In contrast, 5% of businesses felt East-West Rail would have a very negative impact (6% in Aylesbury Vale) and 9% a ‘very positive’ impact (13% Aylesbury Vale).
Employment from HS2:
There will be around 126 full-time equivalent jobs at construction compounds in Aylesbury/ Stoke Mandeville, 50 in the Waddesdon area, 160 around Wendover and 470 in the Claydon area, making a total of 806. There will also be up to 290 jobs available at the infrastructure maintenance depot in Calvert when HS2 is up and running.
National economic benefit:
HS2 Ltd claims the line could lift the UK’s economy by £15bn a year and create 400,000 new jobs. The line will also free up at least 20 freight paths a day on the West Coast Mainline, boosting distribution capacity.