Dear Editor, Chris Kelly (Birmingham Post March 24) is right to question both the investment value and level of business support for HS2. It’s a big call for the country and the region: we must get it right.
The business case is substantiated on a number of levels. Fundamentally, it’s an important part of the jigsaw in the re-balancing of the UK’s economy away from an over-dependence on London and the South-east. Productivity gains are expected in every UK core city. Indeed, the core cities estimate that HS2, by both protecting existing business and growing new business brings a total prize worth about £125 billion. This compares to a total cost of £32 billion. Birmingham and the region will enjoy the biggest productivity uplift of all – some 24 per cent of the total HS2 benefits. There is not room here to rehearse the business case in detail. More details can be found at http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk which is also where businesses can respond to the public consultation.
Chris questions the level of business mandate from amongst Chamber members for the support the Chamber is giving to HS2. During last month and February, we surveyed 258 local businesses in Birmingham and Solihull, representing just shy of 10 per cent of our membership.
This found that 74 per cent of businesses believe that HS2 will create inward investment, employment and economic prosperity opportunities for the future; 75 per cent see its potential to facilitate growth on the same scale as in Europe, Japan and China; and 63% argue it will bring economic benefits even to those firms not directly on the line. We are also in the process of seeking views from our members beyond Birmingham and Solihull.
We all share big ambitions for the West Midlands. We know we can deliver an economy that can deliver far more than is possible today. We can see how we will lead Europe in a number of sectors and how we can demonstrate the appeal of doing more business here.
We need the infrastructure to enable this – great roads, rail and air connectivity. For the first time, we have a 30-year vision for rail and we should celebrate this. I’d urge all businesses to think hard about the benefits to HS2 and, if you share our view about the importance, to go onto the high speed web site and register your support.
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.