The following article was recently published in the Birmingham Post supplement, ‘High Speed Two – Opportunity Knocks?’:
HS2 will bring great opportunities for our region and we are determined to seize this opportunity to get the very best deal for people in the West Midlands.
High Speed Two will bring 22,000 jobs and £1.5 billion per year to our region.
We will enjoy fast, direct links with major cities in the UK and Europe and free up capacity on our existing lines for many more local, regional and freight services.
Major transport projects such as Crossrail and the Jubilee Line Extension have benefited London and the South East, but HS2 will invest in our regions starting right here in the West Midlands.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening visited us the day after announcing the go-ahead for the project and said she wanted the West Midlands to be the blueprint for HS2.
So it is vital we work together to ensure this regional investment delivers the best possible return.
At Centro we have already undertaken work to understand how we can deliver these economic benefits. We can use released capacity to provide many new services, for example:
- Wolverhampton to Birmingham Airport services increased from three to seven per hour
- Increased services from Wolverhampton to Coventry, Shrewsbury, London
- Four services an hour introduced from Walsall to Birmingham Airport
- Services increased from Coventry to Black Country, Leamington Spa, Milton Keynes and other destinations
We want the design of our HS2 stations to be world class, taking inspiration from the tremendous development that has taken place at Liège Guillemins station in Belgium among others.
We want to provide a bold, inspiring and uplifting gateway to our region.
Work is well underway on the £600m New Street Gateway development and construction has begun on our £127m New Street to Snow Hill Metro link.
Design work is taking place on the walkway between the New Street and Moor Street stations (next to HS2) and discussions are taking place on further proposals for rail, tram and bus links connecting HS2 with existing infrastructure.
Redevelopment of Eastside is taking shape at Birmingham City University and the city centre park and HS2 is the catalyst that will drive this forward.
There is a plaque on the wall at the former Curzon Street station which commemorates the first train service between Birmingham and London in 1838.
In 2026, almost 200 years later, the railway will once again arrive in this quarter of Birmingham bringing jobs and opportunities for people in the West Midlands.
There is a lot of hard work lying ahead, but it’s important we bring in HS2 on time in order to relieve the pressure on our existing rail network.
Although rail commuters are familiar with overcrowding, particularly at peak times, this issue is often overlooked when HS2 is discussed and debated.
In the West Midlands we have seen the number of rail passengers almost double in the last decade. Rail’s share of travel into Birmingham has risen from 17 to 27 per cent during this time. Nationally, rail travel is growing at 6 per cent per year and we have the highest number of passengers since the 1920s.
Without HS2 there simply isn’t enough capacity and, without it, we face stark choices about which stations will remain as lucrative, long-distance services inevitably take priority over local services.
Losing local and regional services and forcing passengers and freight onto roads will harm our regional economy.
This is too important to ignore. We must act now to ensure we have a sustainable future.
That is why we must work together and ensure we make the most of this exciting opportunity to deliver the best possible return for the West Midlands.
Geoff Inskip, Centro chief executive