GBRf warns delaying HS2 decision threatens long term damage to infrastructure investment in the UK

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight is urging the next Government to prioritise a decision on the future of the scheme as soon as possible following the General Election on the 12 December. He warns about the impact of continuing delay and that the risk of cancellation poses a threat to the UK's economy and the deliverability of future major infrastructure schemes in the UK. GB Railfreight is the UK's fastest growing rail freight business employing nearly 900 people across the UK.

About 2,000 businesses have played a role in the preparation for the construction of HS2 between London and Birmingham and 9,000 people are currently employed directly or indirectly by the project. The Government recently commissioned an independent review of the scheme led by Douglas Oakervee which was aimed at giving a clear go or no-go decision on the future of the scheme by the autumn. The general election means that there is risk that the period of indecision drags on for much longer.

In its submission to the Oakervee review, GB Railfreight warned that the longer that the period of uncertainty goes on for, the greater the risk that jobs and expertise developed in anticipation of construction work going ahead will be lost. One of the justifications for the review was to look options to cut costs, but a long-term delay could see costs rise If the scheme is eventually given the go ahead as lost expertise and capacity will have to be rebuilt. Long term uncertainty over its future or a cancellation of the scheme could see infrastructure projects such the Government's promised investment in high speed rail in the North of England having to be delayed and curtailed as the UK will have lost capacity to deliver highspeed rail schemes and the contractors will have to factor in the risk of late stage project reviews.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight said: "The decision to review the project at this late stage has led to uncertainty across the construction supply chain across the UK. With a decision on the project now confirmed to be delayed until following the General Election, it is important that the next Government provides a clear view on the future of the scheme as soon as possible.

"Further delay will mean that people and resources which have been built up ready for work on Phase One to start might be lost as business won't be able to afford to keep them in readiness for a final decision to be taken. This could lead to the project facing further cost increases and delay as this capacity will have to be built up again. "A decision to cancel the project would be a significant blow to the economy of the West Midlands and the country as a whole.

It would also cause long term damage to the construction and engineering sector and the UK's ability to deliver major infrastructure projects."

The GBRf submission to the independent review highlights the lesson of rail electrification in the 2010s.

Delay and cancellation of previous schemes meant that once the Government made the decision to go ahead with extensive investment in electrification it faced spiralling costs and the project had to be curtailed as the UK had lost the expertise needed to deliver these projects.

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