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Midlands completely ignored by House of Lords report on HS2

A House of Lords report released today, recommends major changes to the HS2 project without any consideration of the transport needs and opportunities in the Midlands.

The report, entitled “Rethinking High Speed 2”, says the new railway should be reduced in speed and scope to save money and built from North to South so that it benefits northern cities sooner.

Current plans for HS2 include six stations in the Midlands: Birmingham Curzon Street, Interchange Station in Solihull, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Chesterfield and the East Midlands Hub at Toton. None of these stations, or the huge economic development and regeneration opportunities around them, receive any consideration in today’s report.

East Midlands Councils’ plans for the East Midlands Hub at Toton predict the new station and associated development will deliver 74,000 jobs and £4 billion in economic growth. The Urban Growth Company’s plans for UK Central at Interchange in Solihull include 77,500 jobs, 4,000 homes and £4.1 billion in growth. However as these benefits are not directly attributable to the work done by HS2 Ltd, they do not officially contribute to the project’s business case.

In reality, HS2 is already benefiting the Midlands. Birmingham is enjoying record international investment, has topped Deloitte’s crane survey for the first time and has seen thousands more people move to and find work in the city. Halting construction of HS2 Phase One, as suggested by this report, would put all these jobs and investments at immediate risk.

Proposing eleventh hour changes to the project’s design and timetable risks delaying delivery, not only of HS2, but of associated Midlands programmes like the Midlands Rail Hub. The proper design, development, consultation and construction of major transport projects is a long process. Interventions like this only serve to make the process even longer, while communities are left desperately waiting for long overdue transport investment and improvements.

The report proposes cuts in speed to reduce cost and the need for tunnelling, as well terminating the new railway at Old Oak Common in West London, in order to save money on tunnelling into and expansion of London Euston Station. However, the House of Lord’s last report on HS2 in 2015, championed the importance of city centre stations in order to achieve the highest economic and agglomeration benefits.

A recommendation to reduce the railway’s speed risks not only undermining the project’s business case and line capacity, but also increases the whole life cost of operating the railway. Although HS2 trains will not run at 400kmph immediately, designing the railway to support these speeds future-proofs the new railway so that it can accommodate faster and more efficient trains in the future. High speeds and reduced journey times are also fundamental to making the railways an attractive alternative to domestic air and long distance car travel, which will help protect the environment and fend off climate change.

By constantly setting the North against the South and London, while completely neglecting to mention the Midlands, this report stokes domestic conflict and disagreement when the greatest economic benefits only result from closer working, integration and greater connectivity between economic centres.

For example, HS2 will cut the journey time from Birmingham city centre to London city centre by 37 minutes to just 45 minutes. This will help the two cities work together more closely and productively, benefiting them both. Reducing the speed, increasing the time and terminating the service at Old Oak Common would mean the project has far fewer direct and indirect benefits than it otherwise would.

Sir John Peace, Chairman of Midlands Connect and the Midlands Engine, said:

“For the Midlands Engine to be completely ignored by a House of Lords report is just unbelievably disappointing. I was never approached to input into this report.

“Phases One and Two of HS2, combined with the Midlands Rail Hub and Northern Powerhouse Rail will revolutionise the capacity and connectivity of our transport network. We need all of them, as soon as possible. If we start favouring one over the other, we risk delaying them all and undermining our economy at a time when we need to be working together more, not less.

“The Midlands’ universities, automotive, advanced manufacturing and professional services businesses have so much more to offer the national economy, if only they’re given the connections they need to access talent, clients and markets both at home and abroad.

“London is one of the greatest cities in the world. Building a high speed link into its city centre from Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester will help everyone in the Midlands and the North to be more productive and reach their full potential. To terminate the link in West London would be to undermine our own ability to succeed economically.”

Maria Machancoses, Director of Midlands Connect, said:

“This report mentions Northern Powerhouse Rail well over 50 times but the East Midlands Hub, Toton, the Midlands Rail Hub, Curzon Street, UK Central and Midlands Connect do not appear even once. We are a region of 11 million people, contributing over £200 billion to the UK economy every year and it’s as if the House of Lords committee has completely forgotten that we exist.

“HS2 will create a modern, high speed spine of our national transport network that regional services can build on and link into to ensure the cities of Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Coventry, Wolverhampton and Birmingham can reach their full economic potential.

“HS2 can also help protect the environment against climate change by getting thousands of cars and lorries off the roads every day, and providing a fast, frequent and reliable alternative to intercity air travel. But this will only happen if it provides an experience that is far more appealing than the one people are used to today.”

Andrew Pritchard, Director of Policy and Infrastructure at East Midlands Councils, said:

“This report totally ignores the benefits of HS2 to the East Midlands. HS2 will transform connectivity between the East Midlands, the West Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East.

“Local councils, LEPs and businesses are developing exciting plans for new development, jobs and investment around the East Midlands Hub Station at Toton and in Chesterfield and Staveley – which in total could deliver over 74,000 new jobs and an extra £4 billion in economic growth.

"Over 125 companies from across the East Midlands are already helping to deliver HS2 – and our world class rail supply chain sector is well placed to benefit from future contracts.”


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