Suppliers working on the High Speed Railway 2 (HS2) have warned of widespread job losses if the eastern section of the line is removed or put on hold in the next integrated rail plan.
Almost half of HS2’s existing supply chain said it would downsize if the section from HS2 Phase 2b to Leeds is canceled.
In total, 46.3% of SMEs working on the rail project said job losses would be inevitable, in response to a joint survey by the High Speed Rail Group (HSRG) and the Industry Association railway (RIA) created.
Fears that the eastern section of HS2 – from the West Midlands to Leeds – could not be removed were first raised in October when the government launched its consultation on design changes to the western section of the route.
In November, the Department of Transport (DfT) confirmed that Phase 2b would be split into several bills for passage in parliament, while three options from the National Infrastructure Commission’s rail needs assessment – released in December – suggested to reduce the eastern part.
This assessment will inform the Integrated Rail Plan, which is due to be released in the coming weeks after being delayed due to pre-election purdah rules.
The survey also found that 63% of railway SMEs had increased their turnover since the start of construction of the HS2, with 61.5% hiring more staff and 38.5% hiring more apprentices from the start. of main construction last year.
More than 80% of respondents said the cancellation of the eastern section would have a negative impact on revenues, with 67% of SMEs surveyed eyeing contracts on the Leeds section of HS2.
HSRG Director Susan Ryall said: “This industry survey shows how vital the entire HS2 is to small and medium businesses – including the eastern part. SMEs are the lifeblood of our industry, and they are sounding the alarm bells about what the downsizing means to them.
“While 80% of SMEs anticipate a drop in their income and half are likely to lay off staff, the government must seriously consider all the consequences for companies and workers of the reduction in HS2.”
RIA Managing Director Darren Caplan added: “HS2 is essential for UK businesses of all sizes across the country, supporting jobs, investment and economic growth at a critical time for the economy.
“Delivery of the entire route, including the eastern section, will be vital. As the results of this survey show, any reduction in the full HS2 scheme would be a blow not only to future connectivity, but also to the many small and medium-sized businesses working to support the UK as the government seeks a better return. “Post-Coronavirus”.
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