The 51m Alliance of nineteen local authorities opposed to HS2 (including Bucks County Council) have recently launched their ‘Alternative Investment Strategy’. It challenges the current DfT rationale of ‘capacity’ being the main reason for HS2 and proposes a comprehensive package of national investment in infrastructure to rebalance the nation’s economy.
In its executive summary, 51M Alliance said:
The local authorities in 51m are fully committed to investing in key infrastructure critical for the country’s future success. 51m has already set out its fully deliverable and costed ‘Optimised Alternative’ alternative to HS2, upgrading the existing West Coast Mainline. An independent assessment commissioned by the Department for Transport reported that this solution will deliver more than £5 of return for every £1 invested, far better than the return for HS2.
The paper has also gone further, setting out a policy on how to use the £50 billion outlined for HS2 to drive what it argues will produce an economic recovery delivering jobs and growth now. It sets out five ways to achieve this:
- Investing in existing rail and road routes, accelerating delivery of some ‘shovel ready’ schemes, and addressing commuter congestion in the near future rather than in 20 years.
- Major strategic investment in the ‘communications infrastructure of the 21st century’ – ultra-fast broadband and 4G mobile – to enable the UK to be competitive with emerging economies in the Far East, transform the country’s connectivity, supporting both creative and media industries, and vital small and medium enterprises.
- Investing in line with Lord Heseltine’s report ‘No Stone Unturned’, devolving substantial capital and revenue funding to our great major cities to help drive local economic growth in partnerships between business and local communities.
- Substantial and guaranteed long term funding for Local Enterprise Partnerships enabling them to become the true ‘Engine for Growth’, planning and delivering business critical infrastructure in their areas. This will drive national growth, not just growth restricted to cities, and now in this decade, when it is needed most.
- Many issues are raised by this strategy. Addressing ‘state aid’ issues to roll out ultra-fast Broadband, phasing the capital funding devolved to LEPs, and the importance of a long term commitment to funding. This strategy demonstrates that far from being inward looking, the local authorities that make up 51m are committed to working with the Government to deliver great world class infrastructure, and importantly jobs and growth for every part of the nation.
You can download the report Better than HS2- The 51m Alternative Infrastructure Investment Strategy now.