A couple of weeks ago, Philip Hammond said in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference:
“Talk to businesses about their priorities and right at the top of the list will be investment in infrastructure.
And this Government is listening. The Chancellor has made clear that capital will be allocated where it can best support growth.
That’s why we have committed to a high speed rail network that will change the social and economic geography of Britain;”
So I thought I’d check to see what the CBI, the main British business lobbying group, had to say about the spending review, infrastructure and HS2.
The CBI do want investment, but what investment?
Luckily, the CBI’s submission to the Spending Review is available online.
The recommendations at the start begin with transport: the ones relevant to HS2 are:
- Maintain existing transport assets.
- Continue with the Crossrail scheme and the upgrades to London Underground network.
- Deliver savings on existing spend:
- Implement the McNulty Review agenda of improving the value for money of rail spend;
Nothing about High Speed Rail there!
The CBI submission does discuss transport infrastructure early on, but the document says “However, it is important that infrastructure projects, as with other areas of government spending, undergo rigorous value for money assessments to ensure that public money is spent efficiently.”
In the section on transport, the CBI warns that “the many smaller schemes offering high economic returns must not be crowded out by an undue focus on large schemes”.
With rail itself, they says that the Strategic Freight Network should be prioritised where possible, and that Crossrail – already started and with private sector financial contributions – must go ahead.
Was there anything about HS2?
Yes! – on p18 of the document, the CBI says:
“Decisions over High Speed 2 will primarily impact the Spending Review after this one. While business is broadly supportive of the business case underpinning HS2 (primarily the need to address capacity constraints on the West Coast main Line), significant issues remain to be clarified such as the funding arrangements for HS2 and is [sic] impact on rail freight.”
So in the CBI’s words – “significant issues” with HS2.
Not quite the urge to action implied by Philip Hammond!