Speaking following the release of the Plan, Chair of West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Amanda Beresford, said:
“After 11 years of campaigning for improved rail connectivity both within and across our region, today’s announcements are extremely disappointing and will call into question just how serious this government is, on its levelling up promises.
“At their heart, HS2 and NPR are not just transport projects, they are the game-changing backbone of the levelling-up agenda when taken in the spirit of the original vision. These projects shouldn’t be viewed as simply a faster way to get to and from London, but an essential component to rebalancing the UK’s economy by connecting people more efficiently with the jobs and education opportunities across our region. It is well established that great infrastructure is the backdrop to improved productivity and accessibility. It plays a pivotal role in allowing the incredible talent that exists around our country reach its true potential. It must also be recognised that without effective, accessible transport for all, we will remain hamstrung in our ability to achieve our commitments to the climate change agenda, which has been widely debated in recent weeks.
“We have long argued that it is imperative that such projects are recognised as investments that will facilitate economic growth long into the future, rather than costs for the here and now. Government must recognise we are still benefitting from the Victorian infrastructure and foresight delivered nearly two centuries ago.
“HS2 offers many benefits to the region and the country as a whole. It aims to free up capacity on the existing rail network provide more reliable and frequent commuter journeys, and really importantly take more freight off our congested highways and motorways, contributing to the nation’s net-zero ambitions.
“Northern Powerhouse Rail too was set to provide significant improvements to enable faster and more frequent east-west journeys, connecting the north’s major urban centres and in turn widening access and opportunity for communities across the region.“
President of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce, Mike Briffett, said:
“The announcements made today within the Integrated Rail Plan are immensely disappointing. Leeds, as a City and as a Region, has already invested considerable resources, not least significant time and money, over the last ten years in working with Government to build an infrastructure proposal across the North of which HS2 is a key part. With that in mind, to make a decision of this magnitude, with little or no consultation, at this point, on a matter of national infrastructure is flawed and the missed opportunity will be realised by the next generations who will question our foresight and ambition
“If alternatives are to be “suggested” then we must see rapid progress – we simply cannot keep going through this process again only for the rug to be pulled out in another ten years, resulting once again in us going back to square one – that is not how to plan infrastructure, and that is not how you level up the North.
“Leeds is well recognised as an ‘engine’ within the national economy, flourishing as a professional and financial services hub, but also manufacturing and technology, with an increasing number of start-ups choosing to base themselves here. Boasting an already bullish recovery from the pandemic, investing in Leeds is delivering significant growth opportunities for many across the private sector and ultimately contributing to regional prosperity. Whilst today’s decision is immensely frustrating given all the hard work and collaboration which has gone on across the public and private sector, the city will continue on its growth trajectory.”
President of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Victoria Wainwright, said:
“Today’s announcements are completely dispiriting, and serve to undermine Bradford’s strong bounce back following COVID. Despite being Britain’s youngest city, access to opportunity for many is restricted and at a time when many firms are struggling to recruit, it makes little sense for Government to scale back plans to improve labour market flexibility.
“Regardless, Bradford remains an entrepreneurial city and features regularly in lists of the best place to start and scale up a business. Government must consider the scale of potential opportunity should a functioning and efficient rail connection be implemented to further drive these strengths.
“It is acknowledged that rail infrastructure facilitates regeneration, with the firm commitment to HS2 in Birmingham already springing a surge in private investment. It is also well understood that companies are increasingly making decisions to locate in locations that provide the widest possible pool for talent. NPR would put a huge number of people within convenient commuting distance from Bradford city centre.
“Whilst our Victorian forefathers invested heavily in rail infrastructure, fuelling the industrial revolution, the legacy to Bradford of being at the end of two branch lines rather than on a mainline route has restrained the city from achieving its full potential. Bradford Chamber would call on Government to not repeat the same mistakes of the past in failing to rectify this. “
President of the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Laurence Beardmore, said:
“The Government’s plan to scrap HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail links to York is an unwelcome hindrance to the region’s booming post-Covid recovery. We steadfast believe that any such decision would, in time, come to be viewed as a significant missed opportunity for the UK to demonstrate itself as the ambitious, future-thinking, world-leading country we know ourselves to be.
“At heart, HS2 and NPR are not transport projects, they serve as Levelling Up game changers. The point is not a faster way to get to and from London, it is a rebalancing of the UK’s economy. If Government is to realise their ambitions to deliver transformative change to cities like York, a city home to many outstanding public and private institutions, infrastructural investment is not an option, but a necessity.
“North Yorkshire, a region championed by a hotbed of firms delivering world-leading innovations, perhaps most notably in climate-change tackling technologies, must also be served by a regional hub that is well connected. York and North Yorkshire Chamber would encourage Government to reconsider the level of ambition shown in current plans moving forward.”