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Peace breaks out on High Speed Rail front

Peace breaks out on High Speed Rail front

🕔27.Nov 2012

West Midlands councils are setting aside their differences over high speed rail to lobby the Government for major public transport improvements ahead of the arrival to the region of HS2 in 2026.

Centro, the Integrated Transport Authority, is expected to support three major projects aimed at making it easier for passengers to use HS2 stations at the NEC and in Birmingham city centre.

Members of a connectivity working party include representatives from high speed rail backers – Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Airport and Solihull Council – as well as outspoken opponents including Coventry Council, North Warwickshire Council and Warwickshire County Council.

Proposals in a draft package of improvements include:

  • Integrating Moor Street Station with the HS2 terminus at Curzon Street, enabling passengers on local rail services from the Black Country, Birmingham and Solihull to be able to simply cross platforms onto high speed services quickly and easily.
  • Extending the Midland Metro tram line through Birmingham, allowing passengers to travel directly from Moor Street and New Street stations to Broad Street. Rapid transit bus services are also planned to connect Eastside, Moor Street, New Street and the Broad Street area.
  • Building a direct rail link from Coventry and Wolverhampton to the HS2 interchange station at the NEC/Birmingham Airport.

It remains to be seen whether plans for a fast rail link between Coventry and the HS2 interchange will placate Coventry, North Warwickshire and Warwickshire councils.

All three are opposed to HS2 because they believe the high speed service will result in fewer fast trains between Coventry and London and will harm investment in the Greater Coventry area.

A report to be tabled at the next Centro meeting recommends lobbying for Government funding, but makes no mention of how much the three projects might cost.

The report’s authors say that Centro respects the differing positions of local councils on HS2, but add that it is important to “work together to establish one voice for the West Midlands on what schemes needed to be in place to ensure everyone can derive significant benefits from HS2”.

The report states: “The Local Connectivity Package is currently in draft form and is intended to be published in early 2013. It is fully aligned with Metropolitan and Regional strategic priorities including the 2015-19 Major Schemes Prioritisation Work, the draft ITA Freight Strategy, Prospectus and Rail Vision.

“The package will set out the transport schemes that the West Midlands region considers to be essential in advance of HS2 opening in 2026 and that we as a region need to lobby the Government for.

“We are currently investigating a number of potential schemes that would generate significantly improved accessibility and connectivity for the West Midlands into the two new High Speed stations.”

A Government announcement about phase two of HS2 is imminent. The high speed network is likely to run north of Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

Centro says it expects the economic benefits flowing from phase one, from London to Birmingham, to “significantly increase” with the arrival of the second phase.

The cost to the Government of the entire network is estimated at £33 billion. Economic benefit could be as much as £47 billion, according to the Department for Transport.

The benefit figures have been described as over-inflated by opponents of HS2.

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