SNP transport minister Keith Brown yesterday renewed his calls for HS2 to include Scotland, after a study showed that Aberdeen would lose millions of pounds as a result of the high-speed train service.
Brown was reacting to the publication of previously unseen research, which suggested that Aberdeen could lose £220 million. The revelation that more than 50 areas would be worse off – including Aberdeen, Bristol and Cambridge – was omitted from a government-commissioned report published in September, the BBC has claimed.
“This information reinforces the case that the Scottish Government, business and civic Scotland have been making, which is that HS2 must include Scotland in order to realise economic benefits for our communities,” Brown said.
“It also amplifies the point that the business case for the project is strengthened if Scotland is included. That is why we are keeping the pressure on Westminster.”
The full findings of the KPMG study into the business case for the high speed rail route were released following a Freedom of Information request by BBC2’s Newsnight. The chief executive of HS2 Ltd told the programme the figures were unsurprising.
In September, the Department for Transport hailed the study – which found the UK economy would be boosted by £15 billion a year – and listed the areas which would benefit, including Greater London by £2.8bn and the West Midlands by £1.5bn.
But the areas that would lose out have now been revealed, with those worst affected by a drop in economic output including Aberdeen by £220m, Cambridge by £127m, Bristol by £101m, and south Essex by £151m.
The accountants used data from HS2 Ltd’s assessment of the direct transport impacts of the scheme, which would connect London to Birmingham and to Manchester and Leeds.
Professor Henry Overman from the London School of Economics – formerly an expert adviser to HS2 Ltd – told the BBC it was obvious that, as some cities, towns and regions reap the benefits of being better connected, other places away from the line would pay a price.
“When a firm is thinking of where to locate, it thinks about the relative productivity of different places, and the relative wages etc,” he said.
“HS2 shifts that around.”
HS2 Ltd chief executive Alison Munro said: “The places that are on the high-speed network … those are the places that will benefit most from high-speed two. But HS2 isn’t the only investment that the government is making. Over the next five years, it is planning to spend £73bn on transport infrastructure.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “These figures show that the new north south railway is vital to rebalance our economy and it boosts the north overall more than the south. Of course the line does not serve every city and region and these figures reflect that. But it is wrong to take them in isolation. HS2 is part of a much bigger boost to our transport system.”