The plans for the HS2 rail project have been in the news again, as the Government confirmed the final route for the line north of Birmingham. The western leg of the link will connect Crewe to Manchester and the eastern leg will join Birmingham to Leeds by 2033. Coverage of this huge infrastructure project is dominated by an ongoing debate on whether the project is worth the money and whether it will deliver benefits worthy of its hefty price tag.
The cheerleaders for the project evangelise about how it will rebalance the economy, distributing the country’s wealth more fairly between the prosperous South East and the large cities of the Midlands and the north of England, acting as a catalyst for further investment outside the capital. The government has claimed that every £1 of the £55.7bn invested in HS2 will deliver a return worth more than £2.50 to the UK economy, which adds up to a total of more than £103bn. While the success of the broad economic aspirations will be measured in the fullness of time, the pragmatic benefits of what the new trains and lines will offer are easier to envisage. The 250mph trains, each seating up to 1,100, will slash journey times significantly (for example, London to Leeds will reduce from 2 hrs 11 mins to 1 hr 21 mins) and are designed to address the challenge of a generation of soaring train passenger numbers (from 785m rail journeys per year in 1994-95 to 1.69bn today).
Taking the Long View
As the debate continues to rage over whether it is or isn’t value for money, or if it will it or will not rebalance the economy and spread prosperity more equally throughout the country, we should remember that arguments over big projects of this ilk are nothing new. It can often be difficult to debate such visionary, far-reaching infrastructure projects as the rewards are often not seen until many years into the future. Even then, they will tend to be abstract benefits measured at a macro-economic level from which it’s difficult to pick out what’s in it for the individual and which can make them a tough sell to the tax-paying public.
It can be instructive to look for precedents, to similar projects from the past, to see how tangible the benefits to this long-term future planning can be. The Channel Tunnel is a good example. It too demanded a huge amount of investment which generated great debate at the time. This visionary project also sought to reap the financial benefits of joining up two geographical areas using a revolutionary new transport link. The cost of the Channel Tunnel was £4.65bn (equivalent to roughly £12 billion in today’s terms), which was about 80 per cent more than the original projected figure.
Accountancy firm, EY, conducted an assessment in 2016 into the Tunnel’s economic impact and its role in boosting trade between the UK and Europe. It found that the Channel Tunnel is responsible for trade worth £91.4bn per year, representing a quarter of all UK trade in goods with the European Union. It also found that 30% of UK exports (£43.6bn) to the EU and 22% of imports (£47.8bn) from the EU are made possible by the speed, ease and reliability that the tunnel has brought to this trading relationship. From an employment perspective, exports through the Tunnel alone support 220,000 jobs in the UK. In addition to traded goods, it brings in tourism worth £1.7bn to the economy, supporting a further 45,000 jobs in the UK, as well as facilitating 840,000 business trips. On the basis of these figures, and the irrefutable returns and benefits the project has brought to the UK economy, the Channel Tunnel has more than paid back its investment.
Visionary and Connected
Both the Channel Tunnel and HS2 involve planning for and anticipating a future which can look far off from the standpoint of the present day. They also appreciate the value in connecting people and places and the exponential benefits that this can bring. Long-term planning and connecting people are themes which appeal greatly to us at Quadrant and the Progeny Group. Successful financial planning and wealth management depends on a forward-looking approach and a willingness and capacity to prepare today for a future that might yet be some way off. Whether you’re anticipating future rail passenger numbers, or calculating your projected spending in your retirement, you’ll reap the benefits if you have a plan. That’s why we spend a lot of time getting to know our clients. By understanding exactly what their financial goals are we can construct the right financial plan to help achieve them. When lives change, we can adapt our financial planning to suit new priorities.
We’re also aware that financial plans don’t just exist in a bubble. These are often tied up with many other areas of our lives. Whether you’re a business owner, or the steward of generational wealth with a need for particular, more specific guidance than standard financial planning, we advise on all matters of personal or corporate law with an in-house team of professionals working alongside. This is where, in the way we work, we also demonstrate the benefits of making connections. Progeny Group provides a combination of wealth management and legal advice for private clients, corporates and family offices. Our integrated platform meets the needs of high-net worth individuals, families and businesses with a range of wealth management and legal advisory services to provide a truly bespoke service.
We are unique in being able to offer this multiservice package combining financial planning, wealth management and legal advice, and in providing the exponential benefits it brings for our clients. Like the HS2 project and the Channel Tunnel, ours is a far-reaching visionary approach which is underpinned by a belief in the great advantages of connecting people. If you would like to benefit from our breadth of expertise and would like some help in bringing a forward-looking and joined-up approach to your wealth planning, please get in touch.