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HS2: Boost for LDV site jobs plan as Government announces 125 changes to route

HS2: Boost for LDV site jobs plan as Government announces 125 changes to route

🕔24.Jun 2015

The Government has given fresh assurances that the land take for an HS2 marshalling yard at the former LDV-Alstom site at Washwood Heath will be minimised, reports Paul Dale.

A pledge by Transport Minister Robert Goodwill raises hopes that much of the site can still be developed by Birmingham city council, leading to the creation of thousands of jobs in one of the country’s most deprived inner city areas.

Birmingham MP Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill), who has been fighting to maintain as much as possible of the huge LDV site for industrial development, is to meet Mr Goodwill to discuss a timetable for releasing the land from HS2 Ltd.

Mr Byrne told a House of Commons debate on the high speed rail bill that the HS2 marshalling yard and maintenance depot would take out “a considerable chunk of the north of my constituency”. He added:

That area of land is the size of 100 football pitches. It represents one third of the available industrial land in the whole city of Birmingham, and it is located at the junction of two of the constituencies that are among the four most unemployed constituencies in the whole United Kingdom.

If we develop the site in its entirety, we could generate 7,000 jobs, which is my estimate, or 3,000 to 3,500 jobs, which is the Minister’s estimate. That is still a very considerable number that could knock off something like a third of the unemployment in the city of Birmingham.

Speaking after the debate Mr Byrne MP said:

I was pleased to receive an assurance from the Minister that he will ensure that HS2 work with the landowners at the Washwood Heath site to find a way forward. I will be writing to him taking up his offer to convene a meeting between himself and officials to discuss this matter further.

We cannot waste any more time. Our area needs the vital jobs that could be created on that site. HS2 Ltd must adapt their plans to ensure that as many jobs as possible are created at Washwood Heath, as quickly as possible.

Mr Goodwill announced 125 changes to the proposed HS2 line between Camden in London and Birmingham. The alterations, described by the Minister as mostly minor, have been approved by the Government following months of deliberations by the high speed rail bill committee.

One of the proposed changes, said to be significant by Mr Goodwill, involves realigning the route in the Lichfield area to go under the A38, the South Staffordshire railway and the west coast main line.

Mr Goodwill said this would significantly reduce the visual impact of the railway in the area.

The changes will have no effect on HS2 journey times.

The Minister added:

This is about delivering the project by and large as planned. HS2 is more about capacity than it is about journey times. This is about addressing the real capacity issues that we have on our rail network, particularly between Birmingham and London.

These amendments demonstrate that while the Government recognise the vital role that HS2 has to play in transforming our transport network and our economy, we also recognise the need to listen to those directly affected by the railway and, wherever possible, seek to mitigate those impacts.

Shadow rail minister Lilian Greenwood reaffirmed Labour’s support for the HS2 project arguing it was the “right project to address chronic capacity shortfalls on the rail network as well as historically inadequate connections between the cities of the north and the Midlands.”

She raised a critical note of the compensation schemes noting that residents faced a plethora of compensation schemes, “some of which have been withdrawn, while awareness of others appears to be low.”

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