A multi-billion pound shot-in-the-arm for the West Midlands economy was a major step closer today after MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of the HS2 high speed rail project.
Last night’s Commons vote on the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands Bill) has been hailed by the region’s public and private sector leaders as an emphatic endorsement of the project’s ability to help rebalance the UK economy and provide badly needed rail capacity.
Go-HS2, a pro-high speed rail consortium in the West Midlands, said the size of the majority in favour – 452 to 41 – showed how the significant benefits of HS2 were widely recognised and understood.
Cllr John McNicholas, Chairman of transport authority Centro, said: “The West Midlands alone can secure a £4 billion a year economic boost and more than 50,000 new jobs.
“Last night’s vote brings HS2 a significant step closer but we now need to press on as a region and put in place the infrastructure we need locally to realise and maximise those benefits.”
Jerry Blackett, Greater Birmingham Chambers Chief Executive, added: “HS2 has real potential to both solve the impending capacity problem on our existing rail network and provide an enormous boost to regeneration throughout the region.
“When we survey our members on HS2, the Chamber consistently finds that an overwhelming number of businesses believe the project will have a positive economic impact on the region.”
Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, also welcomed the vote.
“We have passed a major milestone and can now look forward to getting the project started as soon as possible,” he said.
“It is particularly good to see the cross-party support for the project, with only 41 MPs voting against and 452 in favour. The argument for the scheme is now won and I hope that the remaining stages of legislation can be taken forward quickly.”
In the main second reading vote on the bill, MPs voted to back the principle of the £50 billion HS2 project.
The bill would authorise the first phase of the project linking the West Midlands with London with work due to start in 2017.
A separate bill will be brought in later by the Government to allow the second phase – north of Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester – to go ahead.
Andrew Cleaves, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership Board Director with responsibility for transport, said: “Our recently submitted Strategic Economic Plan detailed to Government how we intend to maximise and enhance the opportunities of having two HS2 stations and being at the heart of the network.
“This includes our ambitions to be the base for the proposed HS2 College, becoming a world-leader for high speed rail technologies.
“Quite simply, we will work to provide the best economic outcome for Greater Birmingham.”
Paul Thandi, CEO, NEC Group, added; ‘This vote is excellent news as the economic benefits of HS2 will be felt not just in this region, but across the whole of the country.
“I therefore maintain that it is imperative that a project as important as this be delivered sooner rather than later so that these economic benefits can be realised.”