International investors attracted to ever-expanding UK rail network

Travelling by train has always been one of the most popular forms of long-distance public transport in the UK; and having good rail links has been shown to be one of the deciding factors for investors when choosing where to look for their next opportunities.

The British rail network has always been enviable in Europe, however further improvements to the network, including the HS2 scheme, is predicted to skyrocket the network in the tables.

The importance of international investors to the UK cannot be ignored. International investors have proved vital in the past few decades to securing the UK as an economic power worldwide, creating in 2017 alone 170,096 jobs - a 51% increase on 2011/12.

UK transport projects have bought a wealth of investors to the country, making it one of the most attractive places for international investors, particularly those investing in property and those relocating their businesses to the country. In the last four years alone, the UK has gone up four places to now be the ninth best place for infrastructure investment in the world - ahead of the likes on Germany, France and Holland, according to The Times.

Centre For Cities has long asserted that well-connected cities are the most attractive to investors, both national and international. Good transport links mean easy access to businesses and promote a 'healthy' workforce moving to the area, increasing the demand for high-quality accommodation in city centre locations. It's no surprise, therefore, that in the past few years, we have seen more and more developers building schemes close to train stations and promoting the vicinity of their sites to local transport links in their marketing. And it's not just for residents to be able to get to work easily; more and more people renting these types of city centre apartments are also looking for good connections to nearby cities. hotspots and airports for international travel.

A city's residents must be able to reach jobs and amenities. For fast-growing cities, ensuring transport infrastructure keeps up with growing demands has to be a priority... Investors' preference for connectivity is clearly visible by the way in which new transport schemes trigger interest. For example, the announcement of HS2 has been a catalyst for real-estate developments, with Birmingham's Curzon HS2 development masterplan making the most of this opportunity by focusing development in the area around the station" - Centre For Cities

One of the biggest transport projects int he UK at the moment is HS2, which aims to link the north to the south (particularly London) in around an hour, with stations planned in Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Birmingham to name a few.

"HS2's vision is to be a catalyst for economic growth across Britain. By vastly improving connections between cities and regions, HS2 will bring people, their skills and businesses closer together" - HS2 Ltd

Recent research carried out by ComRes - one of the UK's leading market research companies - found that 57% of foreign investors found the HS2 scheme an attractive feature and would be a deciding factor in where they would invest in the UK. This same research found that over 20% of foreign businesses questioned stated transport as the main reason they relocated their business to the UK. In fact, transport links were more important to foreign companies than tax rates, exchange rates and financial incentives.

Neil Rami, chief executive of Business Birmingham, the programme responsible for attracting investors to the city, said: "Foreign businesses want HS2. That message is clear. If it is important to them, it should be a priority for us as a nation. Failure to invest in infrastructure means fewer businesses [and developers] coming to the UK, which means we slip back in the global race for investment."

There has, however, been recent concerns over the actual cost of HS2 and whether it will be able to be completed within the £55.7 billion budget set at the start of the project. Many sources have cited 'over-confidence' and 'ambition' from David Cameron (who was Prime Minister at the time of the schemes approval) to launch the UK to a higher rank in world transport by making the north more accessible to the south of the country and vice versa. The Birmingham Press stated that the uncertainty surrounding HS2 has already been putting off foreign businesses and investors from the UK.

The BBC stated that some experts say there is absolutely no doubt that HS2 will cost substantially more than the proposed £55.7 billion. Lord Berkeley has long been a critic of the HS2 scheme, saying: "When you get into a figure that's probably £100 billion for a high-speed line, that's an awful lot of money."

Conservative Party politician Chris Grayling, however, remains positive that the high-speed rail network will be built on budget, and assured the public last year that this budget was very clear: "I'm very clear on HS2 - it's got a budget, it's got to live with that budget. The budget is [about] £55.5 billion at 2014 prices, that's all there's going to be."

The ComRes research echoed these concerns, stating that 56% of foreign investors feel the UK must invest in large scale transport projects if it wanted to remain a competitive location on the world investment market.

Alison Munro, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, said: "The deposit of the Hybrid Bill for Phase 1 of HS2 is a major step forward for the project. [Research] clearly shows that the UK would lose out on foreign investment if HS2 was not built. HS2 is crucial to redressing the north-south divide and boosting regional economies."

With a current pipeline of over £88 billion in UK national rail infrastructure, it's no surprise that UK transport connections are drawing in investors to the UK, especially in the property development and investment industry. Recent research has shown that good transport links are a key deciding factor for tenants (student, residential and commercial) when looking for rental accommodation.

A further £48 billion spend has also been approved by Network Rail - the owner and infrastructure manager for the majority of the UK's rail network - for the 2019-2024 period, something which will not only increase the interest from international investors and developers looking to build close to the network, but will also provide hundreds of jobs for a skilled rail workforce.

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