LETTER: Industry leaders implore PM to deliver HS2 in full


Twenty-one industry bosses have signed an open letter to the prime minister and chancellor, imploring both men to reaffirm their commitment to the delivery of HS2 in full, amid reports the line connecting Birmingham and Manchester may not go ahead.  

Among the signatories are Keltbray chief executive, Darren James, Mace Group chairman, Mark Reynolds, VolkerRail chairman, Alan Robertson, and Thomas Faulkner, executive vice president at Skanska UK. 

Industry letter to the UK Government, in full: 

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.” 

RELATED ARTICLE: Scrapping HS2 North will ‘send shockwaves through construction sector’ 

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 £380 million, with hundreds 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, chairman, VolkerRail 

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