Councillor Brian Connell, Westminster City Council cabinet member for enterprise and volunteering, makes his case
Infrastructure investment is key to the continuing growth of the UK economy, and vital to the economic success of central London. As the beating heart of London’s economy, Westminster will hugely benefit from HS2 passengers – an estimated 95 per cent of visitors to London head straight for Westminster – so we recognise the potential commercial benefits of such a scheme.
Central London is a very different beast to the rest of the country. Although the capital is, in some ways insulated from the harsh economic wind being felt by much of the UK, investment in and maintenance of our City’s infrastructure needs to maintain momentum to ensure the economic prosperity of our businesses.
Although the debate around HS2 has been heated, the proposals are set to provide a much-needed boost for central London business, at a time when it is particularly needed. In addition to the obvious benefit of dropping up to 15,000 passengers a day right on Westminster’s doorstep, a new high speed rail line is set to stimulate job growth, which can only be a good thing for our 34,000 plus businesses.
At the same time as welcoming the proposals to link the capital with the North more efficiently, the council has worked hard to gain assurances that the impact on Westminster residents will be minimal.
HS2 will ensure that businesses in London have access to a wider labour pool of potential workers
We know from experience, that when faced with a wide range of opinions on such a contentious issue as this, it is possible to come to a compromise. When agreeing the Crossrail developments in Westminster, we worked with developers to make sure that the best possible deal was struck for Westminster businesses and residents.
For instance, we have asked that the HS2 route be diverted from its’ current route, to run underneath the existing West Coast Mainline tracks and ensure that the running of trains does not affect the Queens Park conservation area that the line is proposed to run underneath.
In our eight and a half square miles, Westminster houses thousands of retailers, restaurant theatres and more than 450 hotels, all of which rely on inbound tourism for continued growth. A new high speed rail line direct to the heart of London will help to ensure that Westminster continues to be an economic powerhouse, generating more than 2 per cent of the GDP of the entire country.
But it will also ensure that businesses in London have access to a wider labour pool of potential workers – and create long term capacity for better links with the North and Scotland too.
London is a global city and we need the tools to be able to compete – increasingly, we are not so much competing with Manchester or Glasgow but with Tokyo, Beijing and Silicon Valley. Greater investment in the transport infrastructure is a vital part of our global competitiveness, while also presenting much-needed commercial benefits to businesses both in the Midlands and in central London.
Councillor Brian Connell is Westminster City Council cabinet member for enterprise and volunteering.