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Our support for HS2 ‘hasn’t been bought’ says Birmingham Chamber

Our support for HS2 ‘hasn’t been bought’ says Birmingham Chamber

🕔14.Jan 2014

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce has rejected a suggestion that its support for high speed rail is in any way influenced by the fact that it is being paid by the HS2 company.

The Chamber received £14,400 from HS2 Ltd between September 2013 and August 2014.

The money was described as a ‘patronage fee’ in accounts released to the Tax Payers’ Alliance(TPA) following a Freedom of Information Act request.

But Chamber press spokesman John Lamb said Birmingham businesses were in favour of the proposed high speed rail track between Euston and New Street long before the HS2 company was formed.

The Chamber’s backing for HS2 was in no way dependent on receiving a patronage fee and the organisation was simply reflecting the views of its members, he added.

Mr Lamb told Chamberlain Files: “It’s not as if our support has been bought. It certainly has not.

“We support HS2 because we know it is going to bring enormous advantages to Birmingham businesses. It will bring major procurement potential to Midland industry.

“It would be very remiss if the Chamber did not support a project like this.”

HS2 Ltd paid out a total of £302 million to external agencies between January 2011 and October 2013, according to details released to the TPA.

The figure is less than one tenth of a per cent of the £42.6 billion estimated cost of HS2.

The total external bill on PR and external relations for just ten months of 2013 was £1,083,662, including £104,891 paid to Precedent Communications to run the HS2 Ltd website.

Media company Tomboy Films was paid £128,000 for making promotional videos, while Westbourne Communications received £261,141.

PR specialists CH2M Hill were paid £378,640 for ‘external and parliamentary relations’.

The lions’ share of the £302 million spent from January 2011 to October 2013, £192 million, went  to five companies:

Arup –                                   £ 68,567,229.32
Atkins –                                 £ 35,747,165.83
ERM –                                   £ 30,754,670.50
CM2M Hill –                         £ 29,240,628.94
Mott Macdonald –              £ 27,709,804.67

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said: “The amount of money which HS2 Ltd spent is staggering and clearly represents tax-payers money being poured down the drain in an uncontrollable fashion, and it is no surprise now that Government needed the blank cheque for development work which their Paving Act gave them last year.

Running at up to 250 mph, high speed trains will cut journey times between Birmingham and London to 49 minutes compared to one hour and 24 minutes at the moment.

Benefits to the economy will be substantial with 22,000 jobs likely to be created in the West Midlands, according to research for HS2 Ltd carried out by KPMG.

However, the economic benefits and job creation figures have been described as ‘little more than back of the envelope calculations’ by opponents of HS2.

More on HS2 can be found in our special Case File on the Chamberlain Files

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