The High Speed Rail Group (HSRG) and Railway Industry Association (RIA) have coordinated the campaign to prevent the mothballing of the eastern leg of HS2.
Reports suggest that the government has already scrapped plans to build the HS2 railway line between Birmingham and Leeds to save money. The line between London to Birmingham is now a year under construction and planning continues on the Manchester extension. Leeds, though, is evidently seen by government as dispensable even though HS2 would reduce the rail journey time between Leeds and London from 133 minutes to 81 minutes.
The bosses of contractors Mace, VolkerWessels, Keltbray, Barhale and Van Elle have signed the letter, along with consulting engineers Aecom, Ramboll, WSP, Waterman, Jacobs, Tony Gee and RSK, and a host of other suppliers to the railway industry.
The letter to the prime minster says: “Businesses have invested millions in people, in skills, in technology and in hardware to deliver HS2. To date, 16,000 people have been employed on the project, including over 500 apprentices. We had expected this to grow to 34,000 at peak construction, including 2,000 apprentices, over the coming years.
“Cities like Leeds have built their economic and spatial strategies around the project. So before you take the final decision, we urge you to speak to the businesses employing these people, so you understand the consequences a cancellation of the Eastern Leg would have. We urge you to talk to the apprentices learning their trade on HS2, so you understand the impact on their lives should the project be cut back. And we urge you to talk to the regional leaders in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Northeast who – irrespective of political party – are near-unanimous in their backing for HS2.”
While their direct vested interest in major construction projects rather undermines the argument, which has little to do with transport needs, the letter’s final paragraph – on vacillation at the heart of government – should carry some weight.
They sign off: “Most of all, we urge you to offer clarity and certainty. The [Integrated Rail Plan] review was due to be completed many months ago. As we now enter the autumn, the communities expecting HS2 to come to them deserve certainty and the businesses investing in the expectation of the project deserve certainty. Without further delay, we urge you to provide it.”