HS2 must be built to bring jobs, investment and better transport to the West Midlands, regional leaders urged today (Friday).
Key figures from Go-HS2, including Birmingham City Council, Centro, Birmingham Chamber, NEC Group, Birmingham Airport and Marketing Birmingham, re-emphasised the importance of high speed rail to the regional economy.
Their call for HS2 to be built came as speculation mounted elsewhere that Transport Secretary Justine Greening would announce her decision on the £17bn project next week.
The decision follows a five-month public consultation which concluded in July 2011.
Birmingham City Council Leader, Councillor Mike Whitby, said: “High Speed 2 will provide a vital catalyst to job creation and the future economic competitiveness of not only Birmingham, but the wider region and country at large.
“Alongside initiatives such as the New Street Gateway redevelopment and Enterprise Zone HS2 is perhaps the single most important project for the region’s future and that of the people who live here.”
Geoff Inskip, chief executive of Centro, said that building HS2 would address problems with overcrowding on railways.
“HS2 will not only provide fast, direct links between our major cities, it will also release capacity on our existing lines allowing us to run more local, regional and freight services.
“Without this we face a worrying, bleak picture where local services would be squeezed out and more freight pushed onto our congested roads.”
Jerry Blackett, chief executive at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said HS2 would bring 22,000 jobs and £1.5bn per year to the regional economy.
“HS2 is vital to the economy of the West Midlands and that of the UK. The West Coast Mainline will reach capacity by the early 2020s and without HS2 the economy will stagnate. If we want jobs and growth we need HS2.”
Neil Rami, head of Business Birmingham, the city’s inward investment programme operated by Marketing Birmingham, said:
“HS2 will provide Birmingham with a competitive edge in attracting inward investment. Its central UK location and transport links are already key elements of the city’s offer to investors, and HS2 will strengthen this further by providing faster and more reliable connections across the UK and into markets across Europe.”
Paul Thandi, CEO of the NEC Group, said: “The NEC site alone, which is also home to the LG Arena as well as the National Exhibition Centre, attracts more than three million visitors each year – 70 per cent of which are from outside the West Midlands, and 10 per cent outside the UK.
“We create 25,000 jobs and generate £1.8billion economic impact – so with time being one of the most precious commodities, if it’s easier and faster to get to us, then this is a great advantage – attracting even more visitors from a broader market and greatly benefiting the wider regional economy.”
John Morris Head of Government and Industry Affairs, Birmingham Airport said, “Birmingham Airport is a strategic national asset which, with emerging Government thinking, can easily form part of the solution to over-heated Airport capacity in the south-east. There’s enough spare capacity at Birmingham to take another nine million passengers tomorrow – and another 21 million passengers in future years as Birmingham improves its capability with a modest runway extension.
“High-Speed 2, would bring Birmingham within 38 minutes of the capital – or position it in ‘Zone 4’ of the Underground map, negating the need for further expansion elsewhere and ensuring that opportunities and jobs are created across the UK, not just in the south-east.”