I’d like to take the opportunity to remind people why HS2 is so important for the West Midlands.
Put simply, we can’t afford to be without it. HS2 is an opportunity to create jobs, bring investment and build for future generations. It is an opportunity to provide better and faster links for our region, not just to London but to the north of England and Scotland as well as Europe.
Critics of HS2 have poured scorn on the time saving between London and Birmingham, but they’re missing the point. While time savings are very important for business, the key benefit for the West Midlands is the huge increase in capacity HS2 would provide.
Demand for rail continues to soar. The number of passengers in the West Midlands is forecast to grow by 32% by 2019. And the West Coast Main line will be full by 2024. Even the most ardent opponent of HS2 cannot contest the fact that our trains are becoming increasingly overcrowded.
If we don’t do something about this we won’t meet demand. This would seriously hamper our ability to do business as a region. How would people get to work? How would companies reach the best talent? How would we attract employers to the West Midlands?
If we transfer traffic between major cities onto HS2 we free up capacity on our existing lines. This means more local and regional services can run, as well as freight. The economic benefits are huge and the environmental benefits of getting traffic and freight off our roads are obvious.
HS2 alone would deliver a £600m increase in economic output and 10,000 jobs, but with local and regional rail enhancements the West Midlands economic output would increase by £1.5bn per year with 22,000 new jobs.
Towns and cities, including Coventry, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Sandwell & Dudley, would receive many more services.
A new city centre station will be built next to Moor Street station and the Bullring, providing great access in the heart of Birmingham. You only have to look at the images in our Flickr site (click alongside) to see how Eastside is brimming with potential and ripe for development.
The proposed Birmingham Interchange HS2 station would bring huge advantages in terms of connectivity to the wider West Midlands, with links to the motorway network, Birmingham Airport and the NEC.
Increasing numbers of people are using trains and rail provides a realistic alternative to road travel and domestic flights. People living along the line of route understandably have concerns and the public consultation is their opportunity to make their voices heard. However, it is only right that millions of people and thousands of businesses in the West Midlands have the opportunity to be heard as well.
HS2 is a fantastic opportunity for the West Midlands. This is about creating jobs and building for future generations – for our children and our children’s children. This is about increasing economic output and freeing up existing capacity across our region. This is about providing great links from our region to the major cities in the UK and Europe. We cannot afford to miss this once-in-a-generation chance to bring High Speed Rail to our region.
I’d urge people across the West Midlands to support HS2.
Chief Executive, Centro