Time for the East Midlands to get on board HS2

HS2, the Government’s proposed new high-speed rail line from London to Manchester and Leeds, will present significant threats and opportunities for businesses in the East Midlands, according to a panel of experts.

Speaking at a debate on the value of HS2 to the East Midlands, organised by the Investment Property Forum (IPF), Derby property entrepreneur Peter Gadsby said the new line will deliver much needed investment for the region.

“London and the South East is overheated,” he said. “The cost of living is too high and property prices are extortionate, compared to the rest of the UK. It has reached a point where London is no longer economically viable.

“As a result, what we will see is growth spill out into the regions, as businesses and residents look for better value for money and a lower cost base, while still being able to easily and efficiently access London and other major UK cities.”

Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, who was also on the panel, disagreed. He dismissed claims that a high-speed rail link will bridge the economic gap between London and the north by drawing investment away from the capital into the regions.

“The idea that money will pour out of London and the South East into the regions is nonsense,” he said.

“HS2 will actually do the opposite. Instead of rebalancing the North/South divide, it will simply draw investment away from the regions into the South East.
“Having spoken to businesses in my constituency, some are genuinely concerned about the negative impact HS2 will have on their business. These are well established, successfully run companies that collectively employ thousands of people in the region. Their loss, should they have to close or relocate elsewhere as a result of the proposed line, would be a major blow for Leicestershire.”

The Government announced its preferred route for ‘phase two’ of HS2, from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, in July last year. The proposed route to Leeds passes through North West Leicestershire, mainly along the A42 corridor, and dissects Nottingham and Derby.

Richard Brown, non-executive board member of HS2 Ltd, said: “HS2 is about increasing capacity on the already overstretched rail network and improving accessibility between London and the regional cities.

“A faster, more efficient service will enable the relocation of jobs out of London to regional cities such as Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, where operating costs are much lower.

“Instead of constantly looking at the negatives, we need to focus on the positives of HS2. Businesses need to start gearing up so that when the time comes they can maximise the opportunities that HS2 will deliver.”

One thing the panel did agree on was the need for the different local authorities in the East Midlands to work together more for the benefit of the wider region.

Mike Froom, partner and head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG in the Midlands, said: “HS2 will present significant opportunities for the East Midlands but the biggest challenge it faces is getting the different local authorities to work together for the greater good of the region.

“Instead of competing against each other, local authorities in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester need to present a united front to attract investment into the East Midlands or risk losing out to other regions.”

Around 100 people, including property professionals and business leaders form the East Midlands, attended the IPF panel debate, which was held at Nottingham Conference Centre.

In a vote, the majority of people in the room said they were in favour of HS2.