Business leaders tell government: Abandon HS2 ‘grand folly’

Before and after: View of HS2 looking towards Wendover Dean
Before and after: View of HS2 looking towards Wendover Dean

Businesses are ‘not convinced’ by the economic case for HS2, a survey by a leading business group has revealed.

The Institute of Directors has called for the £43 billion project to be scrapped after just 27% of its members said it represented value for money, with 70% saying HS2 will have no impact on their business’ productivity.

The group also questioned the claim that time spent on trains is unproductive for workers, with 48% of its members saying they spend at least half of their journey working.

The Government says HS2 will generate billions of pounds in economic benefits.

Simon Walker, the institute’s director general, said: “Businesses up and down the country know value for money when they see it, and our research shows that they don’t see it in the government’s case for HS2.

“We recognise that some of our members are in favour of this project and there is a plurality of opinion amongst the businesses community.

“But overall there appears to be little enthusiasm amongst IoD members, not even in the regions where the benefits are supposed to be strongest.

“Indeed, our research shows that almost every region expects London to benefit the most.

“The IoD cannot support the Government’s current economic case for HS2 when so many of our members are doubtful of the benefits.

“We agree with the need for key infrastructure spending, but the business case for HS2 simply is not there.

“The money would be far better spent elsewhere and in a way that will benefit much more of the country.

“Investment in the west and east coast main lines combined with a variety of other infrastructure projects would be a far more sensible option.

”Our members support increased investment in other aspects of our road and rail network, citing this as more important than investment in HS2.

“Eighty per cent feel that investment in existing intercity rail services should be a priority, with just 41% saying the same for investment in HS2.

“Sixty-three per cent believe the money should be spent on other transport projects.

“Station upgrades, inter-city improvements, tunnels, electrification and capacity improvements should all be considered alternatives.

“It is time for the Government to look at a thousand smaller projects instead of falling for one grand folly.”