Green light for HS2: the East Midlands reacts

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given the controversial high-speed train line HS2, the go-ahead after numerous delays and spiralling costs.

The Government’s decision to go ahead follows recommendations from the independent Oakervee Review also published today. However Ministers have also asked that further work is undertaken on the scope of Phase 2b – which includes the Eastern Leg of HS2 through the East Midlands.

The Eastern Leg of HS2 will run from Birmingham to Leeds via the East Midlands Hub station at Toton, Chesterfield and Sheffield. The Eastern Leg and onward connections will serve a combined area of 15 million people which already contributes over £320bn a year to the UK economy.

Nottingham City Council Leader, Councillor David Mellen, said: “It’s great news that the Government has now committed to developing the whole of the HS2 line, which will bring huge benefits to Nottingham and the wider region. The business case for this leg of HS2 is the strongest of the proposals and so we will be lobbying for it to be constructed first. Certainly it needs be done as soon as possible so that we can start to benefit from the jobs and the great improvements to our infrastructure it will bring.

“It’s not just about improving the route to London. It’s about better connecting cities in the Midlands and North, improving journey times and freeing up capacity on existing track which will enable more freight to travel by rail as well as people. This in turn will relieve pressure on our overcrowded roads and reduce air pollution.”

East Midlands CBI Regional Director Richard Blackmore said: “The Prime Minister’s decision to back HS2 is exactly the sort of bold, decisive action required to inject confidence in the economy. It sends the right signal around the world that the U.K. is open for business.

“HS2 shows the government’s commitment to levelling up the nations and regions of the UK. The project will bring jobs, new homes, skills and investment to the areas of the country that need them most. Once built, HS2 will bring much needed capacity to our railways and help to realise the government’s promise of an ‘infrastructure revolution’ for the North, Midlands and beyond.

“The time for debate over HS2 is over and the time for delivery is now.”’

Elizabeth Fagan CBE, Chair of D2N2 said: “HS2 is crucial to the long-term success of the D2N2 area (Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire), so today’s decision is very welcome.”

Cllr Martin Hill OBE, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council and Chair of East Midlands Councils, said: “The East Midlands has been the lowest funded region for transport for far too long. The Prime Minister’s decision to go ahead with HS2 is very positive, but we must work together to ensure that our region can get the most out of this investment and to secure real improvements for our communities.”

“HS2 will continue to act as a catalyst for unlocking significant growth right across our region and support our vision for a more productive, inclusive and carbon-free future for the people of our region.”

Councillor Kay Cutts MBE, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and Chair of HS2 Toton Delivery Board said: “This is really positive news and a huge opportunity for the rest of the country from the Midlands upwards. This is a once in a generation opportunity and HS2 is instrumental in our plans for substantial regional growth in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands, particularly through the new station at Toton. Phase 2b must not short change the East Midlands with downgraded lines.

“We will, alongside our partners, look to work with the review team to see what improvements can be made to the line through the East Midlands which will reduce costs. We have a wealth of evidence and information that will allow us to contribute to the review process in a meaningful way to allow us to get on with the job of delivering it.

“The region has comprehensively planned the route over many years and we are all supportive of the existing plan which works to ensure maximum impact on jobs, housing and the environment. We won’t accept a reduction in the East Midlands offer. By working together we’ve persuaded the Government to invest in areas of the country underinvested in for over 40 years. We have always worked well across East Midlands and now we’re working with the West Midlands and the North. This powerful partnership will unlock the wealth of the country.

“HS2 will be a key driver for new developments in the East Midlands and will help to deliver on our vision of improved connectivity, building on our strengths, which include a wide range of manufacturing, technology, and high-value services, and provide more housing, jobs, and training.

“It will result in a major boost to the regional and local economy, bringing far reaching benefits that will impact positively on the lives of people across the East Midlands for generations to come.

“We have ambitious plans to attract significant investment into Toton, including a major station in a green country park, a garden village with attractive boulevards which will separate traffic from children. Homes and business that will bring new job opportunities with well paid jobs,communities reaping rewards for their ideas and talent.

“The new station which will be built at Toton comes with 200 hectares of development land, excellent infrastructure, an unrivalled location and access to talent, including from our two world-beating local universities, and presents unique opportunities for developers to invest.

“We are wholly committed to HS2, alongside all our partners, which include businesses, other local authorities, and universities. The scheme should go ahead as soon as possible – I would like an early delivery. I wish to thank all those involved in campaigning to make the Eastern Leg of HS2 a reality. This is a proud day for me and all of those who made the case for HS2 in our region.”

Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton said: “We welcome the Government’s go-ahead for HS2 as it will bring significant economic benefits to Leicestershire and the wider economy and radically improve connectivity to cities in the North.

“We’re committed to playing a full and pro-active role in representing county communities as we want to put Leicestershire in the strongest-possible position to get the most out of HS2 as well as mitigating the impacts of its construction on local residents.

“We’ll be closely following a further review of the second phase of the project, and we’d hope that one of its outcomes would result in better connectivity, particularly for the Midland Main Line.”

Midlands Connect Chairman Sir John Peace said: “HS2 is the only shovel ready infrastructure project that can future-proof our rail network, keep rail travel affordable and bring our country together in an environmentally-sustainable way. We must now get on delivering this once-in-a-century upgrade of our rail network to level up the economy and unleash the potential of the Midlands and the North.

“HS2 is already a catalyst for huge regeneration in Birmingham city centre; now, we can get on with bringing the same transformation to the areas around the other Midlands’ HS2-connected stations: Interchange near Solihull, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, the East Midlands HS2 Hub station at Toton and Chesterfield.

“We must now make sure that the benefits of HS2 are maximised through proper integration with regional transport strategies like our Midlands Engine Rail (MER) proposals, using the capacity released by HS2 to introduce 700 additional rail services every day, vastly improving journeys for millions of commuters who use the existing network.

“The Government has already committed to invest in MER’s flagship project, Midlands Rail Hub; we must now work together to confirm support for the whole MER programme, a £3.5 billion investment fully integrated with HS2, to create a rail network fit for the next century.

“A further review of HS2 Phase 2b is an opportunity to make sure that HS2 is properly integrated with Midlands Engine Rail, and that other rail improvements are brought forward before the HS2 East Midlands Hub station at Toton is operational.

“It is important, however, that the Phase 2b hybrid Bill receives Royal Assent in this Parliament to provide certainty to investors, businesses and local communities. A review must also commit to constructing Phase 2b from the West Midlands to the East Midlands first, and must not consider downgrading lines north of Birmingham to cut costs. The Midlands must not be short changed with a two-tier HS2 network.

“Midlands Connect will continue to work closely with HS2 Ltd, the Department for Transport, Network Rail and local authorities to develop a plan that maximises the benefits of HS2, including:

  • Direct HS2 connections from Nottingham-Birmingham and Leicester-Leeds city centres, via Toton;
  • Investment in the East Midlands Development Corporation and in local connectivity improvements around Toton over the next 10 years to prepare the way for HS2 and bring early benefits for local people;
  • Improved HS2 connectivity for Chesterfield and the early delivery of the planned HS2 Infrastructure Maintenance Depot at Staveley.

“The Midlands has a golden opportunity to make the most of the huge benefits HS2 will bring to our communities. It is time to come together to deliver the infrastructure revolution the region desperately needs.”

National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Mike Cherry, said: “It is very welcome that at long last a clear decision has been made to proceed with HS2. The time for debate is over – let’s get the shovels out and put some high speed into the process of building it.

“This is a crucial infrastructure project which will bring economic benefits both during its construction, and in the capacity and productivity improvements it will create once it’s operational. It will allow for a greater number of both passenger and freight services, take lorries off congested roads, and help to improve connectivity across the Midlands and north of England.

“It is important that as tenders are drawn up for construction contracts that as many as possible are broken down to make them manageable for small businesses to bid for. This will increase competition, drive down costs, and protect taxpayers from the risk of putting too many eggs in one or two multi-national baskets.”