HS2 could be the boost the regional economy needs on the back of the Covid-19 outbreak, a business audience has been told.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce held its latest #PolicyHour video call with representatives from the controversial high-speed rail line and were given an insight into how the project was moving forward.
Businesses heard how work on the new line has continued over recent weeks and Phase One between London and Birmingham, with a new station at Solihull, was expected to be completed between 2028 and 2031.
The audience were told 30,000 people would be employed to deliver the project at its peak, that there are more than 400,000 supply chain contracts up for grabs, and that the project could boost the local economy by £14billion as part of a long-term growth strategy, led by local partners.
Speaking at the event, Iain Andrews, Head of Community Engagement for HS2, said: “None of us can say for sure what will happen after this crisis but we know that this is the only major shovel-ready project of this size in the country. It’s the biggest infrastructure project underway in Europe.
“It is going to provide a stimulus to the economy and could be the boost this region needs. Already 82 businesses from the Warwickshire area are involved with HS2 and we want even more to put themselves forward for contracts.
“It’s important to us that companies in the region benefit and that there is a positive knock-on effect for the area so we’d encourage companies in the Coventry and Warwickshire to look at the opportunities available.”
Once built, the audience heard, HS2 would increase capacity and free up existing lines for regional services and freight. The existing network is inefficient businesses were told.
Sean Rose, policy officer at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We were very pleased to be able to hear about the progress on HS2 and it gave members the opportunity to ask questions on everything from procurement through to the impact it will have on other rail services in the future.
“It was a very informative event and we would urge members of the Chamber to find out more about the opportunities so they can bid for and win HS2 contracts.”
HS2 has met with fierce opposition from campaigners in the region who have argued it was a costly white elephant and would destroy swathes of countryside.
This week there was stinging criticism from MPs on the All-Party Public Accounts Committee which concluded the project had gone ‘badly off-course’.
The report accused the Department of Transport of hiding details of overrunning and spiralling costs from members of parliament.