Economists urge government to press ahead with controversial north-south rail link to boost industry

A group of leading experts have warned the government that it needs to accelerate its plans for High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) to boost the UK construction industry.

The proposed route would take passengers from Birmingham to London in under an hour but would run through several areas of open countryside.

The HS2 plan has proved controversial with residents of the areas it would pass through, with some Tory MPs opposing the plans.

A letter from a handful of leading economists published in Financial Times this morning said: “A commitment by the government to accelerate HS2 would give an immediate boost to the British construction industry by creating the expectation of a market for its products.”

The letter was signed by Lord Robert Skidelsky, professor of political economy at the University of Warwick, Nicola Smith, head of economic and social affairs at the Trade Union Congress and Danny Quah, professor at the London School of Economics and 22 other industry leaders.

It added: “A report commissioned by Britain’s Core Cities found that HS2 will support the creation of up to 1 million British jobs.”

The economists also argued that the absence of a high speed rail line connecting the north of England to the rest of Europe via London was a “continuous embarrassment” to Britain and its creation would boost all sectors of the economy.