IoD adds voice to anti-HS2 movement

27 Aug 13
The Institute of Directors has labelled the High Speed 2 project a ‘grand folly’ and called for it to be scrapped

The business organisation is the latest group to come out against the proposed high-speed rail line between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. Its statement, issued today, comes after former chancellor Alastair Darling called for the line to be stopped last week.

Following a survey of its members, the IoD said that only 27% of those polled thought the £42.6bn project would represent good value for money. 

The proportion of members who said the scheme was important to their business was 41%, down from 54% in August 2011, according to the poll.

Director general Simon Walker said businesses up and down the country do not see value for money in the government’s case for HS2.

A key part of the government’s economic justification for HS2 is that time spent on a train is unproductive, so therefore faster journeys will lead to increased economic output. 

However, the IoD says this in inaccurate, as its research found that only 6% of those polled say they never work on a train. Just under half – 48% – say they spend at least half of the journey working.

‘Some of the specific claims that the government has used to support its economic case for the project have been challenged by our members, who by and large do not feel that their business will benefit,’ Walker said.

‘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.’

Walker added that the IoD’s members agree there is a need for key infrastructure spending, but the business case for HS2 ‘simply is not there’. He added: ‘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 mainlines 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. 80% feel that investment in existing intercity rail services should be a priority, with just 41% saying the same for investment in HS2. 63% believe the money should be spent on other transport projects.

‘It is time for the government to look at a thousand smaller projects instead of falling for one grand folly.’


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