The following article was recently published in House magazine.
High Speed Rail offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionise travel in the UK.
We must bring High Speed Rail to the West Midlands if we are to tackle overcrowding on our trains and bring jobs and opportunities for future generations.
Rail passenger levels are growing at around 6 per cent each year and the highest numbers of people are travelling on our railways since the 1920s, and we had double the network back then.
If we do not address this demand for rail travel trains will become increasingly overcrowded. Local, regional and freight trains will be threatened as they are forced to make way for more lucrative longer distance passenger services.
The West Midlands has suffered greatly as a result of the economic downturn and the structural change of the UK economy towards high value, high technology knowledge based industries.
With HS2 our economy benefits from enhanced productivity, new investment, enhanced access to new and expanding markets as well as a larger pool of potential employees for companies to draw on.
To do this we need an enhanced local rail network which can only be delivered as a consequence of High Speed Rail.
Consultants KPMG have concluded HS2, combined with local rail enhancements, will bring £1.5bn to the West Midlands regional economy and 22,000 jobs, helping to reduce the North-South economic divide.
HS2 will provide new capacity in the West Midlands, as well as releasing much-needed capacity on our existing lines.
It provides space for more rail freight – taking lorries off our roads – and for new services from stations like Wolverhampton, Coventry, Sandwell & Dudley and Walsall.
The West Midlands will be at the hub of the Y-network, halving journey times to Leeds and Manchester, as well as cutting times to London and providing fast, direct links with Europe.
The West Midlands and the rest of the UK must remain competitive in the 21st century global economy, but this cannot be done by a reliance on London.
We need to provide High Speed Rail to unlock the potential of our major cities, allowing us to work together.
We look forward to the Secretary of State’s decision in the New Year and hope it is a significant step towards solving the capacity crunch in our region and bringing jobs and opportunities for growth in our towns and cities.