Dear Prime Minister and Chancellor,
We write as the representatives of 21 businesses, who collectively employ thousands of people in the UK, to urge you to end the speculation and recommit to HS2 from Manchester to Euston. All the companies signing below are either based here or have substantial and long-term commitments to investing in and supporting the UK economy.
As you know, nothing is more important in business than certainty and confidence. That is the basis on which we invest and we grow, and the basis on which we employ people and develop their skills. Our growth supports the government’s promise on taking office last year to grow the economy and create better paid jobs.
As such it was welcome when you each, as prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer respectively, took office and provided clarity and certainty to the HS2 project, the biggest public infrastructure investment project in the country. The project already employs some 30,000 people, the majority of which are employed in our companies and in our UK-based SME supply chains.
Delivering big infrastructure properly means committing in the long term, giving certainty to the businesses building it and planning to rely on it in future. At the Autumn Statement, only 10 months ago, the chancellor committed unequivocally to HS2 phase 2, stating that “smart countries build on their long-term commitments rather than discard them… so today I confirm that … we will deliver… HS2 to Manchester.”
We agree that you were right to make this long-term commitment. Discarding it now will have serious implications for the UK economy. When further uncertainty arose around HS2 earlier this year, the chancellor once again intervened to offer business certainty and confidence. When asked whether HS2 would reach Euston, chancellor, you insisted you did not see “any conceivable circumstance” it would not.
Over the years, prime minister, you have also been clear in your support for HS2. In March this year you told the Liaison Committee, “I think it’s important that we get the big infrastructure projects right, that we do them properly.”
In light of the above, the renewed speculation over the last week has been deeply alarming and destabilising to the industry as a whole. It is a particular blow to the 30,000 people working to deliver this vital infrastructure each and every day, and the many thousands of businesses in the North West who are currently investing in the area based on HS2 reaching Manchester.
The reputation of the UK as a place to invest and do business has already suffered in recent years. Statements by some politicians have had the effect of undermining the UK’s reputation for certainty, confidence, and predictability of decision-making in our country. Together, you have both worked hard to address these reputational challenges since taking office one year ago.
This hard work would be undone if the rug is pulled from under HS2. The scope of the project has already changed three times in the last three years, with the removal of the eastern leg, the removal of the Golborne link and then the two-year deferral of certain works. Every change of scope both adds to the costs – the two-year deferral alone will cost at least £380m, with 100s of jobs already being cut because of that decision. At the same time, it reduces the benefits of the scheme, weakening the business case.
Perhaps most important of all, from a business perspective, these constant changes to a flagship infrastructure project add to the perceived risk of the UK as a place to do business, as well as adding to the cost of each and every infrastructure project in the future. At a time when we need to compete globally harder than ever, and we need to deliver infrastructure more efficiently than in the past, we cannot overstate how harmful this is.
We ask that you move urgently to quell the speculation and reaffirm your commitment to the delivery of HS2 phase 2, from Manchester to Euston in full, to sustain the growth in widespread economic benefits this project is already delivering.
- Darren James, chief executive, Keltbray
- Colin Wood, chief executive, Aecom
- Alan Brookes, global chief executive, Arcadis
- Richard Robinson, UK and Europe chief executive, Atkinsréalis
- Xijun Cao, president and chief executive, British Steel
- Chris Rumfitt, chief executive, Field Consulting
- Nigel Milton, chief of staff and carbon, Heathrow
- Dyan Crowther, chief executive, High Speed 1
- Michael Hird, chair and owner, Hird Group
- Paul Goodhand, managing director, Knorr-Bremse Rail Systems (UK) Ltd
- William Wilson, chief executive, Linbrooke Services Ltd
- Mark Reynolds, group chairman and chief executive, Mace Group
- Charlie Cornish, group chief executive, Manchester Airports Group
- Darren Caplan, chief executive, Railway Industry Association
- Lucy Prior MBE, chair, Railway Industry Association SME Group
- James Bain, chief operating officer Europe, Worldline and chair, Rail Supply Group
- Rob Morris and Sambit Banerjee, joint chief executives, Siemens Mobility
- Thomas Faulkner, executive vice president, Skanska UK
- Nick Salt, chief executive, Systra
- Andy Bell, vice president, Thales GTS UK
- Alan Robertson, chair, VolkerRail
Philip Pashley, Group Proposals and Communications Director
Tel: 020 7643 1000
Email: [email protected]
Notes for Editors
Keltbray is a leading UK specialist construction engineering and infrastructure solutions business, offering a uniquely integrated delivery capability spanning key phases of the client value chain – design management, civil engineering, geotechnical, construction waste management, demolition and decommissioning, piling and reinforced concrete structures, remediation, rail infrastructure, power distribution, transmission and substations, and renewable energy services.
The company was founded in 1976 and is privately owned, directly employs over 2,000 people, and is a key delivery partner to prestigious public and private sector customers, contributing to the development and maintenance of Britain’s rapidly changing economic and social infrastructure.
Keltbray provides certainty of delivery to meet the exacting needs of diverse and complex projects in complex, safety-critical markets. Its professionally accredited teams take pride in delivering safely and sustainably to specification, on time, to budget, and with care for the environment and our communities.