Unions welcome HS2 green light
Unions have has welcomed the announcement the HS2 project has been given the green light.
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘This is good news – albeit long overdue, because dithering and uncertainty helps no one – because Britain needs not just a new high speed rail line but a new high speed rail network. We have always argued that HS2 should run the length of the UK, being built from Scotland, and the south of England, at the same time, meeting in the middle, linking HS1, and going via Heathrow.
“Shaving a few minutes off the journey time from London to Birmingham – which is what its critics like to claim – was never what this project was all about. It was, and is, a plan to build a better railway for Britain in the 21st century, to free up pathways for passengers and freight, and to bring prosperity to every corner of our country.
“The project has been criticised by environment campaigners but HS2 is part of the solution to climate change – because rail is part of the green agenda – and will mean fewer cars, fewer lorries, and fewer carbon emissions. If we are serious about climate change – and want a true, integrated transport network – then HS2 has to be delivered.
“If HS2 does not go on to Leeds and Manchester, what becomes of the much-trumpeted Northern powerhouse? And what is the purpose of the project?
“HS2 has been backed by both Labour and Conservative governments, by the trade unions, and by British business, and is vital to rebuilding our nation. To have stopped HS2 in its tracks would have sent out the wrong message to the countries with whom we hope to do new trade deals that Britain is stuck in the past, not looking to the future.”
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The decision to go ahead with HS2 is good news for the economy in general and is an immediate fillip to the construction sector.
“When HS2 was originally proposed by the previous Labour government it enjoyed cross party support, in its vision to better connect London to the North West and Yorkshire, generating a significant boost for business.
“The review of the northern sections of HS2 must not be an excuse for further delays, instead the government must look on how the final completion date can be brought forward, while applying joined up thinking. Ensuring that an effective cross Pennine northern rail line is linked into HS2 and built as soon as practical.
“Public procurement must be for public good and that means a respect for workers’ terms and conditions. If HS2 is going to be delivered without further delays or cost increases it is imperative unions play a full part in the project.
“There can no room as the HS2 project now fully moves forward for the bad practices of Costain and Skanska to be allowed re-occur.”
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Our union welcomes this announcement and we have said from day one that HS2 is vital not only to build much needed capacity on our railways but as a clean and green means of connecting and turbo charging economies across the Midlands and the North.
“Nearly half of Britain’s population will be linked by HS2 services around Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London but I say directly now to Johnson – grasp the nettle – and commit to taking HS2 all the way to Scotland.
“Frankly there should have been no Oakervee and no bending the knee to short-sighted Tory backbenchers focussed only on their own backyard.
“This is about creating a high-speed rail network which will see an historic shift of freight and passenger travel from roads to rail – hopefully all the way to Glasgow and Edinburgh – which will see passengers transfer from domestic flights and in so doing cut our carbon emissions and fight climate change.
“The benefits of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will be felt by many for decades to come. Germany, Spain, France, Japan and host of other countries are miles ahead of us when it comes to high speed rail.
“However, without public ownership the fares will be so extortionate that people won’t be able to ride the trains so our whole rail network must be brought under public control.
“What we have heard today must be an end to the debate and delay – there is not a moment to lose – we must get on with getting HS2 done.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is welcome news to finally see the government recognise the benefits that high speed rail will bring and commit to the HS2 project. However we are concerned that after decades of under investment in the very skills, training and workforce planning we need to fully deliver the HS2 project that the government will continue to be asleep at the wheel of this project.
“To address this shortage this government must urgently set up a skills taskforce with unions at its core to address this deficit and fully deliver the project. If they do that not only will HS2 improve the wider rail network for passengers, HS2 is the once in a generation opportunity to build the jobs, training and apprenticeships to serve the wider rail industry well into the future.”
GMB national secretary Jude Brimble said: “The reality is that HS2 is happening and the government should get on with it. Thousands of skilled jobs depend on the project in construction and the supply chain.
“Ministers must concentrate on making HS2 a model of good employment practice while making sure our members can get on with building world class infrastructure in the Midlands and the North.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “On a project this size, it’s right that the government secures value for taxpayers’ money, but we can’t have any more political delays. No more excuses – the government must get the project moving.
“HS2 is not only a vital upgrade to our transport network, it’s a chance to create thousands of high-quality jobs. But to fully deliver for workers, contractors must work closely with unions to create great jobs and ensure high safety standards.”
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