The hybrid Bill for Phase One of HS2 (London – West Midlands) will today be debated by MPs in the House of Commons. This is the second reading of the Bill and is the first opportunity for MPs to evaluate its general principles and themes. Coinciding with this, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has today announced research that rebukes the Government’s claims that HS2 will regenerate the North of England.
Askar Sheibani, CEO of Comtek, Entrepreneurship Champion for Wales and chair of the Deeside Industrial Park Forum, offers comment on why he thinks MPs should pay closer attention to the concerns of the UK population and the economic risk of investing in HS2.
“On a day when it is critical to be considering the relative advantages and disadvantages of HS2, the Institute of Economic Affairs has found that HS2 is not only a risk in terms of public support, but also in terms of economic impact. The sheer amount of investment required is completely out of step with the benefits it is likely to deliver and MPs need to take note of this.
“Here in Deeside, we recently had an open discussion about the benefits of HS2 compared to investment in the local rail infrastructure. Representatives from both HS2 and Stop HS2 offered their views in a discussion with the local community and out of around 70 attendees, only two people came out in favour of HS2. The vast majority, instead, called for lower-cost local rail improvements, such as the electrification of rail links into cities such as Liverpool. Deeside has a flourishing business park, but the lack of a reliable, regular train service into Liverpool is compromising its economic growth. Investment here may not grab the headlines, but it would certainly make a tangible difference to local businesses.
“As for the economy, the IEA has clearly shown that high speed services have had little impact. From 2010 to 2013, East Kent’s employment rate has fallen over three percentage points more than the national average and in Doncaster, despite its access to a fast rail link for several decades, it was ranked 42nd worst in a deprivation index out of the 318 boroughs in England. Our economy is too fragile to recover from HS2 failing and if the Government chooses to support it today, it will be taking an irresponsible risk with the taxpayers hard earned cash.”
The debate will begin at 3.30pm today and will go on until 11pm tonight and the Select Committee will also be set up.