A package of infrastructure projects and investment to ensure the West Midlands gets the most from HS2 could secure 100,000 new jobs and a £14 billion economic boost for the region, guests at a House of Commons event have heard.
More than 80 people including Ministers, MPs, peers and prominent business figures attending the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Parliamentary Reception last night (Wed Nov 30), heard how the high speed rail line offered a unique opportunity to increase prosperity and job opportunities for people right across the region.
Speakers at the reception, titled ‘HS2 at the Heart of West Midlands Connectivity’, included Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and WMCA chair Cllr Bob Sleigh, who explained how the authority was determined to maximise the benefits offered by HS2.
Cllr Bob Sleigh (left), chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling at last night’s WMCA Parliamentary Reception
The WMCA’s ‘HS2 Growth Strategy’ features a range of infrastructure projects and investment that builds on the high speed rail line’s catalytic potential for growth and includes:
Mr Grayling said: "HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project and the Government is seizing the opportunity it offers to build a transport network fit for the 21st century.
"The West Midlands will be key beneficiaries of HS2, which they are using as a springboard for regeneration and economic growth."
The WMCA believes HS2 is key to the Government’s vision of a Midlands Engine and vital for a healthier and wealthier West Midlands
Cllr Sleigh said: “HS2 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fire up the Midlands Engine and drive our regional economy, improving people’s job prospects, particularly those of younger people, in the process.
“That’s why our HS2 growth strategy sets out to secure the maximum benefits possible and in doing so help build a prosperous West Midlands that can play a pivotal role in creating a rebalanced and successful post-Brexit UK economy.”
The reception heard how the authority’s ‘HS2 Growth Strategy’ seeks to take advantage of the West Midlands’ position at the heart of the UK’s high speed rail network, giving it unrivalled connectivity to other major cities and better and faster links to markets both at home and overseas.
It also explores how to best use the badly needed capacity that will be released on the existing rail network by HS2.
Phase 1 of the high speed rail line between the West Midlands and London is due for completion in 2026 with Phase 2, going north from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, scheduled to open in 2033.
The West Midlands is, however, already seeing the benefits of Europe’s biggest infrastructure project.
HS2 Ltd recently established its headquarters in Birmingham city centre, employing 1,300 people and the National College for High Speed Rail is due to open in the city next year.
Investment is also being secured as part of the £1bn Curzon Masterplan centred on land around the HS2 station in Birmingham city centre’s Eastside district and for the UK Central development at the Interchange Station close to the National Exhibition Centre and Birmingham Airport.
A number of leading companies including Jacobs Engineering and property consultants Carter Jonas have already relocated to the region, with HSBC’s retail bank head office set to open in 2018, all citing HS2 as a principal reason for the moves.