The building of HS2 should continue despite being behind schedule and over-budget, a business group has claimed.
Confederation of British Industry director of infrastructure Tom Thackray admitted the problems facing the high-speed railway are disappointing but insisted it “promises to bring huge economic benefits across the country”.
He went on: “The message from business on the project remains consistent – build it, back it, benefit from it.
“Of course, today’s report may be a clarion call for those anti-HS2 voices, but businesses believe derailing the scheme would be a significant economic restraint on the Midlands and the North.”
Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake, speaking on behalf of Connecting Britain, said: “Although it is disappointing to hear the announcement of a delay to HS2, the recognition that the benefits of the scheme have previously been substantially undervalued is to be welcomed.
“The Connecting Britain campaign, which has launched today, highlights why the North needs HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. It shouldn’t be either/or, we need both. There’s a sound business case to invest in HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail to truly level up, re-balance our economy and create transformational change.”
Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association general secretary Manuel Cortes claimed there is “no good reason” for delaying HS2.
He said: “A delay will simply set back our economy and hamper the much-needed clean and green evolution of our transport infrastructure.
“Our northern cities and the wider economy just can’t afford to wait. They are crying out for the boost HS2 will give to regional economies.
“Let’s be under no illusions, high-speed rail has been up and running in other European countries for decades. Why is it we lack so much ambition? We must say no way to delay.”
Nick Baveystock, director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said other major projects such as Crossrail show that updates on costs and timings can be “beneficial”.
He added: “It is better to have these conversations now rather than after deadlines have been missed.”
Penny Gaines, who chairs campaign group Stop HS2, said work on HS2 should be stopped while the Government-commissioned review is carried out.
She said: “They’ve given up the pretence that they can get it built to the original timescale, so there is no need for urgency.
“The damage is real, the damage is irreversible and the damage is ongoing.
“The only reason for continuing is to make it harder to call a halt to HS2. It’s like a slash and burn of the countryside for no reason other than to wreck it.”