Go-HS2 member Birmingham Chamber has responded to claims by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) that HS2 would cost up to £80bn.
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Anti-HS2 campaign based on ‘wild guesses’ says Chamber
Business leaders in the West Midlands today described a report which sets out to undermine the development of HS2 as “flimsy and unsubstantiated”.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) claimed that costs would soar by £30 billion and that a swathe of countryside would be blighted by convoys of trucks rumbling through peaceful towns during the seven-year construction phase.
But Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group, said the report was short-sighted and seemed to be based on “wild guesses”, especially around their attempt to inflate costs.
He added: “The IEA is a London-based economic think tank that champions the ‘small state’ so it was never likely to support HS2.
“The IEA do not set out how they have done their sums to arrive at the £30 billion (added to £50billion official cost estimates) to give the £80bn total. Their figures are not based on evidence – it’s a wild guess, which they effectively concede.
“The £30 billion is attributed in the report to ‘transport schemes linking to HS2’ – schemes that elsewhere they say will probably ‘never be built’.
“So it can be concluded – from their own report – that the £30bn figure is a wild guess at the costs of some schemes that they say will probably never be built.”
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have expressed concern about how HS2 plan to transport excavated material during construction and one report yesterday said it would cause “environmental havoc” along a 40-mile corridor, blighting the lives of “500,000 unsuspecting people”.
Mr Blackett said: “HS2 is working to ensure that over 95 per cent of excavated material is beneficially reused for the construction of the railway, including noise and visual screening therefore reducing the need for long-distance transportation.
“Overall the report is in many areas flimsy and unsubstantiated and no account is given to the disastrous results of not building HS2. They ignore the broader impact of the gridlock on the West Coast mainline that will result if we do nothing.
“Development of HS2 will free up the existing lines and open up easier reports for getting our export goods to ports like Southampton.
“The report is extremely London and south-east centric and advocates only investing in those areas, ignoring the cases for the midlands and the north.
“If that thinking was allowed to prevail we could arrive at a situation where we would have an even more affluent London and south-east, a federated Scotland leaving the midlands and the north with a limited say on its own destiny.
“It’s vital that the midlands promotes its own cause in the wake of this concerted effort by interested parties to undermine one of the most important construction projects the country has advocated in recent years.
“Without it the manufacturing heartland of the country could be side-lined by the political and economic forces of the south east.
“Birmingham Chamber has consistently supported HS2 because it offers a compelling case for jobs and growth.
“The existing railway will be full to bursting by the mid-2020s and HS2 will release capacity on existing lines so that more passenger and freight services can run.
“Increasing passenger services in the West Midlands helps us do business and also ensures that our businesses can take advantage and recruit from a deeper pool of talent.
“We believe the economic benefits from connecting eight great cities will kick-start wealth creation outside of London. We need to ensure our cities can compete with European cities like Munich, Milan, Lyon and Barcelona, who are already ahead on their rail links.”