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Transport Secretary underlines “urgent need” for HS2 and announces new funds

Transport Secretary underlines “urgent need” for HS2 and announces new funds

🕔12.Oct 2016

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has restated the case for a “new high speed, high capacity railway line to give Britain the infrastructure it needs.”

The Transport Secretary has confirmed that the government is committed to pressing ahead with HS2 to tackle the forecast “capacity crisis” facing the rail network and to help boost jobs and regeneration along the line of the route and across the country.

Construction is due to begin on the scheme in the first half of next year.

Mr Grayling is currently confirming plans to make £70 million of government funds available to support local communities and road safety along the route between London and the West Midlands.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

We need HS2 now more than ever.

We’re facing a rapidly approaching crunch-point. In the last 20 years alone, the number of people travelling on our railways has more than doubled and our rail network is the most intensively used of any in Europe.

We need HS2 for the capacity it will bring on the routes between London, the West Midlands, Crewe, Leeds and Manchester as well as the space it’ll create elsewhere on our transport network.

We need it for the boost it will give to our regional and national economies.

And we need it for the jobs it will create, and for the way it will link our country together.

The Transport Secretary’s announcement was welcomed by Cllr Bob Sleigh, chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority. Cllr Sleigh said HS2 would bring major economic benefits to the region. He added:

The positive impact that HS2 can make to our local economy and to people’s jobs prospects, in particular young people, should not be underestimated.

It is why we are determined to make the most of HS2 and maximise the benefits by putting in place the local transport links needed to connect and feed into the line, and the job training and apprenticeships that will equip people with the right skills to fill the thousands of jobs that will be created.

The West Midlands will sit at the heart of the UK high speed rail network giving us unrivalled connectivity to other major cities and better and faster links to markets both at home and overseas will help us grow our regional economy.

That in turn will help the wider UK economy, which we believe will be more important than ever in a post Brexit world.

According to WMCA, high speed rail will trigger the following benefits for the West Midlands:

  • More than 100,000 new or safeguarded jobs (10% of which will be filled by unemployed people)
  • An economic boost of £14 billion
  • Support for 2,000 businesses
  • Increased skills with 36% of people qualified to NVQ4 or higher
  • 2,000 HS2 related apprenticeships.

A reaffirmation of the Government’s support for HS2 will be welcomed  by many in Birmingham who were concerned that the policy may be subject to a change of government under PM May. Today’s speech and funds from Chris Grayling follow a good week for Birmingham and the Midlands Engine project which attracted much attention at the Conservative Party Conference in the city.

READ: What did the circus leave behind? 

The £70 million is made of 3 separate funds:

– the HS2 Community and Environment Fund (CEF)
– the Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF), which together total £40 million
– £30 million road safety fund.

The CEF will help enhance community facilities, improve access to the countryside and conserve the natural environment along the HS2 Phase One line of route, while the BLEF will support local economies in areas where businesses may experience disruption from the construction of HS2 according to the Transport Department.

The 2 funds will provide £40 million which is set to be allocated on a regional basis, including £7.5 million for the West Midlands (Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry).

The allocations were made by Cathy Elliott, the independent chair of the CEF and BLEF funds, following recommendations from the House of Commons HS2 hybrid Bill Select Committee.

Cathy Elliott said:

Allocation of the funds in this way allows communities to have an indication of the level of funding available while maintaining some flexibility to ensure that the overarching objective of the funds are met.

Allocating the funding on a regional level will allow the funding of larger schemes which are likely to deliver a long lasting legacy.

Community groups, charities, non-governmental organisations and business support specialists will be able to bid for grants from the CEF and BLEF funds, which are expected to be rolled out when construction starts in 2017 and will be awarded until the end of HS2’s first year of operation in 2026.

The detailed application guidance for the 2 funds will be published in “due course.” Following the launch of the funds grant-making rounds are expected to take place every 3 to 6 months.

A separate £30 million road safety fund will be used to make improvements in places along the line of route – for instance to support traffic calming, safer junctions or better pedestrian crossings. Further details on this fund will also be announced in “due course.”

The Transport Department says that a decision on the HS2 Phase Two route to Manchester and Leeds will be taken in the Autumn.

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