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CBI/Aecom study reveals need for clarity over HS2 role in rail policy

The government must demonstrate how High Speed 2 will fit into the UK’s wider rail strategy, business leaders have warned.

The calls emerged as part of a new CBI and Aecom survey which found that 92 per cent of business leaders said their support for the high-speed line would be boosted by clarity on how it would complement a long-term rail plan (see attached).

The findings also showed 95 per cent of firms view delivery of Network Rail’s £38bn improvement programme as the “minimum” investment required, with 45 per cent saying they wanted the government to go further and increase capital spending on rail.

Broken down by region, 55 per cent of Welsh businesses said they wanted to see rail capital spending increase, while half of Yorkshire & Humber firms said the same.

The report suggested this could be a reflection of overdue upgrades in both regions.

Meanwhile, 91 per cent of businesses urged the government to deliver on the Airport Commission’s recommendation of building a third runway at Heathrow.

However, the report also stated that the UK “cannot afford” to pursue a strategy in the South-east alone.

“With a high-quality network of airports across the country, complementary action must help boost demand across the UK, making routes like Manchester Airport’s link to Hong Kong or Newcastle Airport’s link to Dubai less the exceptions, and more the rule,” it said.

When asked about priorities for managing energy costs, UK businesses prioritised energy efficiency.

Eighty-eight per cent of respondents called for the simplification of energy policy, which the report said may reflect the “complex web of overlapping and burdensome policies”, which could deter investment.

“With this in mind, the government’s review into the energy efficiency tax and policy framework presents an important opportunity to shape a more coherent landscape which unlocks business investment in energy efficiency,” the report said.

The survey involved 722 participants across the infrastructure sector.

The majority of respondents were senior executives of their respective companies: 30 per cent were CEOs, with a further 45 per cent managing directors or directors.

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