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Trams may run between Birmingham and Coventry in HS2 spin-off scheme

Trams may run between Birmingham and Coventry in HS2 spin-off scheme

🕔08.Nov 2013

A Midland Metro tram route linking Birmingham’s Curzon Street HS2 station, Birmingham Airport/NEC and Coventry is being planned by local authority leaders.

The 26 mile track is envisaged as a major spin-off benefit from the HS2 high speed rail line.

A project group working closely with the HS2 Company is looking in detail at the feasibility of a multi-million project to improve access to high speed rail stations, and the tram route between Birmingham and Coventry is seen as a key priority.

Details of the metro scheme were revealed by Birmingham city council leader Sir Albert Bore, who said he hoped trams would run from New Street Station and Curzon Street to an HS2 interchange at the airport and then on to Coventry city centre.

The route will make it easier to access UK Central – the name given to employment land alongside the M42 and airport – and trigger the creation of thousands of new jobs, Sir Albert said.

He told a scrutiny committee looking at Birmingham’s preparations for HS2: “Project groups are looking at maximising the beneficial impact of HS2 and one of these groups is looking at Curzon Street Station.

“We intend to take the next metro route out from the city centre to the HS2 station at the airport and, we hope, onwards to Coventry.”

One possibility being examined would see trams run from New Street Station on a track running to platforms underneath Curzon Street international station and then on to New Canal Street, Fazeley Street and onwards to the airport.

The proposal is similar to plans first launched in 1987, under which passenger transport authority Centro proposed trams running from Coventry city centre to the west of the city and from Birmingham to the airport. It was hoped that the two routes might eventually be joined up as part of a West Midlands network of tram lines, but neither of the tracks was ever built.

The planned Coventry metro section provoked a storm of protest from middle class households in Earlsdon who complained about the impact on property prices of trams running along narrow streets.

Sir Albert told the scrutiny committee that HS2 could bring 50,000 new jobs to Birmingham and the West Midlands, but only if connectivity around the interchange stations was improved.

He conceded that the city council had lost the battle to retain the huge DVD/Alsthom site at Washwood Heath, where development creating 6,000 jobs had been planned. Most of the land will be appropriated by the Government for an HS2 maintenance depot, creating about 800 jobs.

The best the council can hope for is that a third of the land will be returned to the local authority after 2026, when HS2 services begin to run.

Sir Albert’s enthusiasm for HS2 is not shared by Roger Godsiff, the only Birmingham MP to vote in the Commons against the project. Mr Godsiff (Lab Hall Green) likened high speed rail to the Millennium Dome, which he said “saw taxpayers’ money being completely wasted”.

Mr Godsiff, speaking in a debate on the HS2 Paving Bill, said: “if this is a such a great bargain for the taxpayer and for this country, why is it not being financed by private capital or foreign sovereign wealth funds?

“The Government are no great lover of public enterprise. Indeed, they are doing their best to pass the very successful franchise on the east coast line back into private ownership.

“That is their position, fine, but why is private capital not coming into this project? Why are foreign sovereign wealth funds not coming in?

“I suspect the reason is quite simple: private capital will not touch it with a bargepole, because those involved know that it cannot be done within the figures that have been talked about. It will go massively over budget and they are not going to pick up the bill.”

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