Business leaders in the region have responded to the announcement that the HS2 project is set to be delayed.

Construction of the section of HS2 between Birmingham and Crewe is to be delayed by two years, Transport Secretary Mark Harper has said.

Services of the high-speed rail line may not now enter central London until the 2040s.

The Federations of Small Business (FSB) support small businesses throughout the country, including many in Bolton.

On the announcement, its development manager for Greater Manchester, Robert Downes, said: “Small firms have been banking on the delivery of HS2 that could help drive the UK’s growth and levelling-up agenda.  

“The government should provide clarity on the progress of this important project and the scale of impact on specific local areas arising from possible construction delay.”

READ MORE: HS2 leg to be delayed and road projects slowed to make savings

Mr Downes says that, having already seen downgrades to electrification, Northern Powerhouse Rail, and other infrastructure projects that small businesses across the UK have been calling for, “other crucial infrastructure projects must not suffer the same fate”.

He added: “Contracting directly with more small businesses would help cut costs on this crucial infrastructure project and help the Government achieve its target of spending one-third of procurement funds on small businesses. 

“We hope the benefits of HS2 will be delivered as promised – allowing a greater number of both passenger and freight services, taking lorries off congested roads, and helping to improve connectivity across the Midlands and north of England.” 

Lord McLoughlin, chair of Transport for the North, said: “This is a disappointing announcement. But I was reassured by the Transport Secretary that we are still getting HS2 to Manchester, and the recommitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail is welcome.

“However, it needs to be understood whether or not these cost savings can be realised while still achieving the same desired outcome and conditional outputs.

READ MORE: Booth Industries key players in HS2 project as it expands

“The government needs to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish, as delays don’t necessarily lead to savings, and in fact can drive costs upwards.

“Nevertheless, the political leaders of the North who sit on our Board have made their collective position very clear - we must transform the North by building both HS2 and NPR in full.

“Taken together, both projects unlock the North’s economy from the existing position of poor infrastructure that has held it back. It is the communities and businesses across the North of England who are suffering most by any delay or inaction in delivering on these schemes.”