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Small firms worry levelling up going off track after HS2 update

A major rail investment.

Engineers prepare the launch area for the Long Itchington Wood Tunnel tunnelling machine HS2-VL

The Integrated Rail Plan is the Government's largest ever public investment in Britain’s rail network.

An investment of £96bn is to be made to deliver faster and better journeys to more people across the North and the Midlands, similar to or more quickly than under earlier plans.

The plan published earlier today aims to transform east to west and north to south links. There will be three new high speed lines and improvements made to East and West Midlands rail services.

But today it was also announced that the eastern leg of the scheme is to be scrapped.

Responding to the Government’s announcement regarding its Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Confirmation that a significant section of HS2 is not going ahead will come as a big disappointment to small firms right across the country which were banking on its delivery.

“Targeted, local investment is a great thing – the detail unveiled tomorrow will reveal whether we have enough here to make up for the HS2 shortfall. There will be those who worry that the levelling-up agenda is already going off track.

“Fundamentally, we need guarantees that the investment being promised will deliver the same benefits as the original plans where passenger and freight capacity are concerned.

"For the sake of business travel, tourism, supply chains, international trade, and levelling up in the round, that same additional capacity needs to be there.

“Suddenly changing course on a project like this when so many were working on the basis that it was going ahead is never helpful. That said, there are some interventions to welcome as part of this release, not least around flexible ticketing.

“Small businesses will be hoping that the Government can reassure with specific investment proposals when it publishes its plan in full tomorrow.

“Any savings realised should be directed towards a holistic levelling-up approach, assisting firms with the spiralling cost of doing business by increasing the Employment Allowance, launching a Help to Green initiative aimed at spurring sustainable investment, and taking more of the smallest businesses out of the business rates system.”


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