High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Federation of Small Businesses (HSR 181)

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has taken a neutral approach nationally to the development of high speed rail. Small businesses recognise that the UK rail network needs to be upgraded and brought in line with European standards to ensure connectivity with the continent. Having said that the cost of HS2 is astronomical in relation to the amount spent annually on the road network.

FSB regions, affected by HS2, will hold differing positions on the economic and environmental impact. Some members hold the view that it will bring economic benefits through speedier journey times to major cities; however, the flipside is that members along the HS2 line will be adversely impacted during and after construction.

Only 9% of FSB members consider establishing a high speed rail network a priority and in general terms small businesses are moderate users of the rail network, with only 4% considering trains crucial to their business operation. A further 21% of small businesses state that trains are quite important to them. Only between 4% and 6% respectively considered train, air travel and bus to be crucial to their business operation.

The main reason small businesses are not using rail is the cost. Around half of small businesses say they have been, or will be, negatively impacted by recent rail fare rises. Other businesses have said that the locations they need to visit, often out of town business parks, are not conveniently reached by rail, so they have no choice but to use their car. The majority of small businesses are dependent on their cars and vans for their business operations.

Conversely, as many as 72% of small businesses say their car is crucial to their business. Public transport in any form is therefore not likely to replace the use of a car/van for small businesses. The nature of the work carried out by those businesses using a car/van is such that it is not possible to replace the car journey with a public transport journey.

Nearly half of small businesses, or 43%, even said that nothing would encourage them to use the public transport network more. The state of repair of roads therefore is a crucial element in creating an environment in which small businesses are able to grow and prosper.

Small businesses typically operate their car/van within a 40 mile radius of their base and are more concerned about petrol prices, the state of the road network, congestion on local roads and the rising cost of insurance mainly as a result of damage to their vehicle caused by potholes in roads. Sixty per cent of FSB members say the state of roads impacts negatively on their business.[421]

Key messages:

—  The FSB calls on the Government to undertake a full assessment of transport priorities before signing off on the HS2 project.

—  Small businesses are moderate users of the rail network and the main reason for not using rail is cost.

—  Small businesses rely on the road network and 6 in 10 have no choice but to use a car/van for business purposes.

June 2011

421   All stats in this response are taken from the FSB Small Business Survey Panel February survey on Infrastructure. The survey had 1739 responses. Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011