HS2 hammer blow for Devon and Cornwall economy
The Westcountry economy will be dealt a multi-million pound hammer blow under plans to bring high speed rail service to the north, new research reveals.
Previously unseen data has shown that Cornwall alone stands to lose £19.25 million if the controversial high speed two, or HS2, project is built, while Plymouth and Exeter will take £14.15m and £7.37m hits, respectively.
The details have been revealed in a Government-commissioned report which also shows that Devon (£6.01m), Devon North East (£13.45m), Devon North West (£18.54m) and Devon South West (£14.01) will also lose out.
The Westcountry is among more than 50 areas in the country which the report shows will be worse off with HS2.
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These details, however, were omitted from the KPMG study when it was published in September.
The full findings of the study into the business case of the high speed rail route have come to light following a Freedom of Information request by BBC Two’s Newsnight programme.
The chief executive of HS2 Ltd told the programme the figures were unsurprising.
In September the Department for Transport hailed the study – which found the UK economy would be boosted by £15bn a year – and listed the areas which would benefit, including Greater London by £2.8 billion and the West Midlands by £1.5 billion.
But the areas that would lose out have now been revealed, with those worst affected by a drop in economic output including the Westcountry.
Other areas forecasted to take an economic hit include Aberdeen by £220 million, Cambridge by £127 million, Bristol by £101 million, and Essex south by £151 million.
KPMG accountants used data from HS2 Ltd’s assessment of the direct transport impacts of the scheme, which would connect London to Birmingham and to Manchester and Leeds.
Professor Henry Overman from the London School of Economics – formerly an expert adviser to HS2 Ltd – told the BBC it was obvious that, as some cities, towns and regions reap the benefits of being better connected, other places away from the line will pay a price.
“When a firm is thinking of where to locate, it thinks about the relative productivity of different places, and the relative wages etc,” he said.
“HS2 shifts that around.”
The chief executive of HS2 Ltd, Alison Munro, said: “What this is showing is that the places that are on the high-speed network... those are the places that will benefit most from high-speed two.
“But high-speed two isn’t the only investment that the Government is making. Over the next five years it is planning to spend £73 billion on transport infrastructure.”
A DfT spokesman said: ``These figures show that the new north south railway is vital to rebalance our economy and it boosts the north overall more than the south. Of course the line does not serve every city and region and these figures reflect that.
“But it is wrong to take them in isolation. HS2 is part of a much bigger boost to our transport system – £73bn in the next parliament, of which HS2 is just £17bn. This will massively benefit places HS2 will not serve long before the line opens.”
Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s utterly dishonest for the Government to have spent £250,000 of taxpayers’ money on a report and then to release only cherry-picked findings. This is further evidence, if it were needed, that the KPMG report was a taxpayer-funded propaganda exercise. Sadly, HS2 bosses have a track record of using dodgy numbers in an attempt to justify the white elephant’s hefty price tag. It’s time to scrap this project before any more taxpayers’ money is wasted on its construction or its expensive PR.”