The transformation of Eastside is already taking place. Work on the city centre park has begun and Birmingham City University is further developing its impressive campus.
In recent days we’ve given presentations to developers and completed filming about HS2 with the BBC in Curzon Street.
It’s fascinating to think of the history, as well as what the future holds for this site, where rail travel began for the Victorians, so close to the city centre.
The following article and photographs dealing with Eastside were recently published in the Birmingham Post.
It is fitting that the railway journey that began here with the first Birmingham to London service over 170 years ago is set to continue into the 21st century and beyond.
On September 17, 1838, the first London to Birmingham train pulled into Curzon Street station, a wonderful Grade I listed entrance structure which can be seen today standing opposite Millennium Point.
And the railway is set yet again to catapult Eastside into a new era of regeneration with a 21st century high speed rail station, which would provide fast links between Birmingham and major cities across the UK and Europe.
Standing on the current site, adjacent to Moor Street, it seems hard to imagine it will be possible to reach London and Manchester in less than 50 minutes, Leeds in around one hour and Paris in less than three hours.
HS2 will bring new business and visitors who will be able to take advantage of the exciting development taking place, including major initiatives such as Eastside City Park, Thinktank’s Science Garden and Birmingham City University’s City Centre Campus.
Eastside City Park will be an outstanding space for local people, workers and visitors to enjoy alongside the proposed HS2 station.
The Science Garden will form part of the park and use interactive exhibits to focus on the great scientific, manufacturing and transport heritage of the West Midlands.
BCU’s campus will provide a purpose-built home for the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, with state-of-the-art media facilities such as television and photographic studios.
With so much development going on it’s easy to see why city council Leader Mike Whitby says HS2 will act as a significant catalyst for growth in Eastside and throughout Birmingham and the West Midlands.
“The benefits for Birmingham and the West Midlands are clear – job creation, increased productivity and increases in average pay,” he says. “We see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest for the future and provide a 21st century high speed transport system linking the cities of the Midlands, the North and Scotland with London and Europe.”
In fact, Eastside, Birmingham and the West Midlands will be at the heart of the whole UK high speed network. Phase one runs between Birmingham and London, but the second phase heads north in a Y-shape connecting the West Midlands with the East Midlands and Yorkshire; and Manchester and Liverpool.
One of the key benefits of HS2, which cannot be overstated and is often overlooked, is the release of capacity on existing lines across the West Midlands. Demand for rail continues to soar. The number of passengers in the West Midlands is forecast to grow by 32 per cent by 2019 and latest figures from the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) reveal passenger numbers growing at 6 per cent per year, despite the recession.
Studies acknowledge that the West Coast Main Line will be full by 2024 and rail passenger numbers are at their highest since the 1920s. HS2 would treble capacity between Birmingham and London and transfer major city services onto high speed lines.
This would release capacity for local and regional services as well as freight services on the increasingly overcrowded rail network in our region.
Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip says HS2 will transform Eastside and bring huge benefits.
“It’s an exciting time for the West Midlands, with Eastside right at the heart of so much development activity. The HS2 station that will be built here will bring jobs and opportunities right across our region. It will also give us much-needed capacity.
“We need a local and regional rail network that allows our businesses not just to compete, but to thrive both nationally and internationally. Only HS2 can deliver this level of capacity.”
The new high speed rail station and lines would create hundreds of construction and service jobs, as well as rail crew posts for conductors, drivers and other staff.
A new depot would be built to service the trains bringing 300 skilled jobs to Washwood Heath. In an independent report KPMG concluded that HS2 will bring 22,000 jobs and an increase in economic output of £1.5bn per year to the West Midlands.
Former Transport Secretary Philip Hammond recently told an audience of Birmingham businessmen and women that HS2 offered an opportunity to ‘reshape our economic geography.’
“The big winners will be the conurbations outside London,” he said. “Birmingham can be the transport hub for the UK.”
Business in Birmingham has been keen to support HS2, grasping the development and networking opportunities high speed lines will bring. Birmingham Chamber of Commerce is
a key supporter and member of Go-HS2 and the proposals have the full backing of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.
In recent weeks Birmingham Future – representing 500 of the city’s future leaders – has joined Go-HS2, with chairman Gareth Morgan pointing to the benefits for generations to come.
“The better connected Birmingham becomes, the greater potential there is for business growth from opportunities both north and south as well as in Europe,” he says.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening will give her verdict on HS2 in December. Once the first phase connecting Birmingham with London is given the green light the railway will once again be the catalyst for regeneration in Eastside.