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HS2 ‘a great British success story’ if we repeat the Olympic Games spirit, says Treasury chief

HS2 ‘a great British success story’ if we repeat the Olympic Games spirit, says Treasury chief

🕔21.Mar 2014

Britain must evoke the 2012 Olympic Games spirit and get behind HS2 to create jobs and regeneration from the ground-breaking high speed rail project, experts have warned today.

A report by the Growth Taskforce, which was established to examine how to maximise the benefits from HS2, predicts that cities in the Midlands and the North could become global leaders as a result of investment flowing from the £50 billion scheme.

The report calls for action now by the Government to simplify and join up funding to speed up construction around HS2 stations sites, such as Birmingham Curzon in Digbeth and an interchange station at Birmingham Airport/NEC.

By accelerating regeneration and development of brownfield land on the route the taskforce argues that big benefits will be seen in just a few years. It also calls for city regions to work together to integrate local transport networks.

One of the report’s key recommendations is that the Government should appoint a Minister with a specific remit to lead redevelopment and regeneration around HS2.

The report underlines the value of development land around the HS2 route and lends additional weight to the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP’s claim that high speed rail is a “game changer” for Birmingham and the airport/M42 corridor in terms of the jobs and inward investment expected to be created.

The taskforce calls for targeted plans for local development to be put in place, combined with a push to build a workforce with the right skills to fill the 25,000 new jobs to build and maintain HS2, which will mean local businesses are in pole position to win the £25 billion worth of contracts that HS2 will generate, delivering wealth creation right across the country.

A ‘business as usual’ approach will not be enough according to the taskforce which calls for the same levels of ambition and collaboration that saw Britain deliver a hugely successful Olympic Games.

The taskforce’s recommendations include:

  • New local bodies to create tailored growth plans for cities along the HS2 route.
  • Local leaders and business use HS2 to supercharge their city regions by creating world-leading transport links and kick-starting urban regeneration.
  • Work to begin now to ensure young people understand and capitalise on the career opportunities HS2 will open up.
  • Help given to British firms to bid for HS2 contracts.
  • Ensuring HS2 contracts lead to local job creation, skills development and apprenticeships.

The Growth Taskforce, which brings together figures from across the political spectrum and the private and public sectors – from Sir John Rose, ex-CEO of Rolls-Royce to Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC – delivered its recommendations to government in Birmingham today.

The announcement follows Sir David Higgins’ report, published earlier this week setting out how HS2 might be delivered sooner by speeding up work to take the line to the North of England.

Lord Deighton, Taskforce chairman, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury and the former Chief Executive of London 2012, said: “Like the Olympics, HS2 has the potential to be a great British success story, bringing jobs and growth to the whole country. Our report sets out the common sense steps that we need to take now to achieve this.

Sir Howard Bernstein, CEO Manchester City Council and Deputy Chair of the Taskforce, said: “HS2 is not just a railway. It is the opportunity to re-balance Britain and kick-start regeneration in my city and others across the Midlands and the north of England. It is imperative that we work together to do all we possibly can to get the country ready.”

Lord Heseltine, a former Tory cabinet minister and author of the No Stone Unturned report calling for decentralisation of Whitehall powers and budgets to boost regional economies, welcomed the taskforce’s report.

He said: “The HS2 Growth Taskforce has shown just the kind of thinking needed to maximise growth and unleash the potential of great cities such as Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield. The report provides a clear view of what must be done, and equally importantly who must do it, if we are to get Britain truly ready to benefit from HS2.”

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