The West Midlands does not lose out – misleading claims from HS2 opponents

The proposed HS2 station in Birmingham city centre

HS2 has received the full backing of all three major political parties during conference season, so it’s probably not surprising there have been more misleading claims from opponents.

High Speed 2 opponent Jerry Marshall told the Birmingham Mail that services to London would be ‘slashed by two-thirds.’

This is an excerpt from the Birmingham Mail piece from Sept 28:

According to research by the protest group Campaign Against High Speed 2, commuters will see a reduction in services, a £51 million bill per constituency and many years of disruption. The group alleged that services between the Midlands and the capital will be slashed by two-thirds and commuters will also pay a torturous price with years of delays and route changes.

It’s absolute nonsense, of course, and fails to take into account the massive capacity injection HS2 brings, as well as the increase in local and regional services.

We wrote to the Mail. Their story can be read here. Our full version is below:

Misleading and mischievous claims of HS2 opponents

Supporters of High Speed Rail have hit back at mischievous and misleading claims being made about proposals to bring HS2 to the West Midlands.

In yesterday’s Birmingham Mail (Sept 28) HS2 opponent Jerry Marshall claimed that services between the West Midlands and London would be ‘slashed by two-thirds.’

But pro-high speed rail group Go-HS2, which includes The NEC Group, Birmingham Airport, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham City Council and transport authority Centro, today branded the claim as nonsense.

John Morris, Birmingham Airport’s Head of Government and Industry Affairs, said: “I’m afraid this is typical of the mischievous nonsense put about by many HS2 opponents.

“How can opponents claim services are being cut when HS2 will triple intercity capacity to London from the West Midlands?”

“There will still be London services from New Street, but also many more new services from the brand new stations being built in Curzon Street and Birmingham Interchange, close to Birmingham Airport. This puts the West Midlands, rather than London, right at the heart of the UK’s transport network.”

“Claiming there’s a reduction in services is absolutely ridiculous,” he added.

Mr Morris said it was vital HS2 was built to provide desperately-needed capacity for the UK rail network.

“Demand is running at 6% per year, despite the recession. We’re seeing the highest number of rail passengers since 1929 and we’ve only got half the network we had back then.

He said the increasingly congested West Coast Main line between Birmingham and London was heavily shared by intercity, commuter and freight services.

“We’re running out of capacity and if we don’t address this situation and build HS2 we face local, regional and freight services being squeezed out in favour of more profitable intercity services.”

Mr Morris said that opponents supported an alternative scheme known as Rail Package 2, but said this failed to deliver enough seats at peak times.

Political party UKIP, which has come out against HS2, has even suggested running services between London and Birmingham on existing lines, but cutting out stops at stations en route such as Coventry, Rugby and Milton Keynes.

Former Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, told this week’s Labour conference that such alternative schemes were ‘a classic British patch and mend.’

However, HS2 would enable major city traffic to be transferred onto the new high speed line, allowing more services to run on existing routes.

Centro has drawn up plans to use the released capacity to run more trains from stations including Wolverhampton, Coventry, Sandwell & Dudley and Walsall, as well as more freight services to relieve congestion on the region’s roads.

An independent survey by KPMG concluded that HS2 would bring 22,000 jobs and £1.5bn per year to the West Midlands economy.

HS2 would also cut journey times between Birmingham and key cities with Leeds falling from 2h 5m to around one hour, Manchester from 1h30 to 49m, and Paris to less than three hours.

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3 Responses to The West Midlands does not lose out – misleading claims from HS2 opponents

  1. The real trouble is that both sides are making misleading claims – including that above. The antis claim of dramatically reduced services is FUD, misleading and not helpful – if there is demand, services will run providing there is capacity. However, the pros like yourself continue to claim a large increase in capacity to the “West Midlands”, when if fact HS2 is only accessible to Birmingham City Centre and car drivers via the M42. Without a single integrated station serving the New Street lines, Moor Street lines and HS2, it is simply misleading to say that you serve the “West Midlands”. No passenger from Wolverhampton or Coventry will use rail to access HS2 – they will all drive to the M42 station or use the existing route. A travellator, tram line, tunnel link or any other kind of “link” between New Street and Fazely Street, or between the existing airport station and the M42 one, simply will not do. And please look at how Stratford International failed in transport terms because it wasn’t integrated with the main station. Please fight to avoid the same disaster in Birmingham! Lobby and support for a single integrated Birmingham station that will really bring the full benefits of a new line to the whole West Midlands, rather than narrow city centre and airport interests.

  2. Chris Howe says:

    Its funny how even those opposed to HS2 can have views which are poles apart. There are those that say ‘we can’t afford HS2’ and then those who want to add an further £1bn or more onto the price tag just so that trains can terminate at New Street. People who champion New Street as a terminus for HS2 services either have some sentimental view of New Street being this great hub or are just too lazy to even comprehend making the 300 meter long journey to the entrance the HS2 station which as it happens is directly adjacent to Moor Street which itself has connections across the West Midlands, be it by travellator or tram. It safe to assume that passengers once in London will think nothing of using the lengthy travellator at Waterloo to connecting between the Jubilee, Bakerloo and Northern lines but can’t even comprehend doing the same between New Street, Moor Street and the new HS2 station.

    What is clear is that with long distance trains diverted onto the new line it will be possible to operate many more local services which will operate right across the West Midlands than is possible today, with the constraints on the WCML and at New Street which is even now has no more capacity to operate more trains.

    • Chris, I don’t propose HS2 to New Street. I propose a new integrated station linking Fazely Street, Moor Street and the New Street line. http://ukrail.blogspot.com/2011/08/improving-hs2-birmingham-central.html . This has benefits beyond HS2, as it extracts *all* long distance services from New Street (not just one or two), providing the real capacity increase to improve local services (and allows future generations to extend HS2 under Birmingham). It feels a little like some in Birmingham are scared of saying anything that could be perceived as negative aroud HS2, rather than opening eyes and campaigning to see it improved.

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