HS2 is as vital to the West Midlands economy as Crossrail is to London, Geoff Inskip told an audience at a Labour Party conference event.
Mr Inskip, chief executive of West Midlands regional transport authority Centro, said only HS2 could provide the step-change needed to provide jobs and growth, while meeting growing demand for rail and delivering international connectivity.
“HS2 is so important to us it’s like our Crossrail. We need a transport system as good as that in London and only HS2 provides the capacity we need for intercity travel, local and regional rail services and freight,” he said.
Mr Inskip was speaking at ‘HS2 in the West Midlands – an opportunity for growth on a scale of national importance’ alongside Shadow Rail Minister Lilian Greenwood MP at Labour’s Brighton conference (Sept 22).
Mr Inskip said the number of rail journeys made in the West Midlands had soared by 14 per cent in the last year.
“Commuters know just how crowded many of our existing routes have become. This problem is not going to go away and HS2 is the only way to address it.”
Mr Inskip said investment in the South East did not receive the same level of scrutiny from opponents.
“While it is right to examine infrastructure schemes thoroughly we must be fair and consistent and this should not mean that the regions lose out.”
He described suggestions that work should be carried out on the existing network instead of HS2 as a ‘sticking plaster’ approach.
“We’ve already spent £9bn on upgrading the West Coast Main Line, but continuing issues with performance and overcrowding have already proved this isn’t a long-term answer.”
Centro recently unveiled research revealing HS2 would generate 51,000 jobs and £4.1bn of investment per year in the West Midlands.
KPMG’s national research concluded the West Midlands region was set to benefit most due to its location at the heart of the network.
Mr Inskip said repeated claims that technology and remote working negated the need for rail travel were a red herring.
“We can clearly demonstrate rail is growing – we’ve seen passenger numbers double in the last decade in the West Midlands – so we could argue technology is boosting rather than cutting demand for rail travel,” he added.
The event was chaired by Cllr John McNicholas, Centro Chairman, with speakers including Cllr Roger Lawrence, Chair West Midlands Joint Committee, John Morris, Public Affairs Director Birmingham Airport, and Andrew Cleaves of Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP.