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High speed rail bill on track for approval as Transport Secretary opens Birmingham’s HS2 offices

High speed rail bill on track for approval as Transport Secretary opens Birmingham’s HS2 offices

🕔04.Feb 2016

Legislation enabling the HS2 high speed rail line between London and Birmingham to be built should be on the statute books by the end of the year, the Government has announced.

The HS2 Phase One Hybrid Bill is on course to receive Royal Assent in December and construction of the line from Euston to Curzon Street in Birmingham will begin  in 2017 and is expected to be completed by 2026.

The announcement came as Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin opened HS2 Ltd’s new offices in Birmingham city centre and as the National High Speed College, also to be located in the city, was granted planning permission.

Up to 1,000 staff will be employed at the Snow Hill headquarters, from engineers who will help design the railway to procurement specialists.

Mr McLoughlin said:

HS2 will rebalance our economy, helping make the Midlands an engine for growth. The official opening of the headquarters is proof that HS2 is already boosting jobs and skills, and will continue to do so as we head towards construction.

Birmingham will be at the heart of the HS2 network, with new stations at Curzon Street and Birmingham Interchange when the Phase One route opens in 2026.

Connections north to Crewe will open in 2027, with the lines to Leeds and Manchester due to be completed by 2033.

Phase One of HS2 between London and the West Midlands is estimated to support up to 14,600 construction jobs, 2,200 permanent operations and maintenance jobs, and 30,300 jobs supported by development around HS2 stations in Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham Interchange and Birmingham Curzon Street.

HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins said:

The arrival of HS2in Birmingham will play a vital role in boosting jobs, skills, economic growth and regeneration across the city.

I am proud HS2 has chosen Birmingham as its future home to house up to 1,000 staff to deliver the largest infrastructure project Britain has seen for decades.

Meanwhile, the new National College for High Speed Rail in Birmingham has been given the go ahead after Birmingham City Council’s planning committee granted planning permission today.

The brand new, three-storey, 5,700 square metre building will be located on the site of the former Birmingham Science Park off the A4540 Dartmouth Middleway and Lister Street.

The £22 million facility will contain workshops, classrooms, a café and office space alongside a car park and external teaching area containing railway tracks, masts and social space next to the canal.

The college will provide specialist vocational training for future generations of engineers.

In September 2014, the Government announced that the National College for High Speed Rail would be jointly located at two sites, one in Birmingham and an additional hub in Doncaster.

Cllr John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:

Birmingham is at the heart of the national HS2 network with Curzon Station, the construction headquarters in the city centre and the maintenance depot at Washwood Heath. The National College for High Speed Rail will be a much-needed conduit for the thousands of young engineers and scientists within Birmingham to access cutting-edge developments in high tech rail.

I’m keen to ensure that HS2 becomes part of the solution in relation to our challenges with jobs and skills in Birmingham. We should see this as an opportunity to build skills in this city and it’s really important that people from across the city benefit.

John Evans, Chief Executive of the National College for High Speed Rail, said:

I am delighted that planning permission has been granted for the National College for High Speed Rail site in Birmingham today. This is a significant step forward in the development of College and with Doncaster’s planning permission granted last December this is real progress for the College opening in September 2017.

The National College for High Speed Rail will have a major impact on the ability of the UK rail supply industry to develop a suitable and sustainable workforce to deliver HS2 and other infrastructure projects in the future.

It is being claimed that the cost of Phase 2 of HS2, taking the line northwards from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, has soared by 39 per cent.

The estimate is contained in the response to a Freedom of Information request made by the Stop HS2 campaign.

Last November, it was announced in the Autumn Statement that the overall cost of the entire HS2 project had increased from £50.1 billion to £55.7 billion, with Government officials claiming that the 11.2 per cent increase in costs was purely to account for inflation increases to bring the previous estimates based on 2011 prices in line with 2015 prices.

The claim that the cost increase was purely to account for inflation was not verifiable at the time, as breakdowns of the estimated costs for the various elements and the associated contingency funds were not published.

Freedom of Information requests to HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport have since revealed that instead of the increase being a straight addition for inflation, the construction estimates have risen by 15.02 per cent for Phase 1 (£15.65 billion to £18 billion) and 39.20 per cent for Phase 2 (£12.5 billion to 17.4 billion).

However, even though there is still no approved route for Phase 2 which was originally promised for Autumn 2014, the Government has kept the overall cost of the project down by cutting the Phase 2 contingency fund by almost 20 per cent and reducing both the cost estimate and the contingency fund for HS2 rolling stock.

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:

In November we were told that the increase in costs of the HS2 project was purely as a result of adding inflation, but now we can see that was simply not true.

The fact the Phase 2 construction estimate has spiralled by 39 per cent is exceptionally worrying, so it’s no wonder they wanted to keep this fact quiet. The fact the contingency for Phase 2, which there is currently no plan for, has gone down along with the cost of the as yet unspecified trains, can only be interpreted at the Government pulling out all the stops to fiddle the figures and keep the published costs down.

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