High Speed Rail Group: “HS2 Eastern Leg Essential to National Levelling Up Agenda”

The High Speed Rail Group has published a report entitled HS2 Midlands Voices, in which voices from the Midlands say why they think building the full Y-shaped HS2 line is crucial for both the regional and the national economy.

A quick overview: HS2 Phase 1 runs from London to Birmingham in the West Midlands; HS2 Phase 2a then continues from Birmingham to Crewe. HS2 Phase 2b has two legs – the western leg, from Crewe to Manchester, and the eastern leg, from the West Midlands to Leeds. This latter eastern leg branches off from the westbound HS2 route just north of Birmingham.

Tube-style HS2 route-wide line map
Tube-style HS2 route-wide line map

The contributors to the report come from the fields of politics, business and industry, such as from city and county councils, from the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE), from Arup, SYSTRA and more.

The report argues that thanks to Phase 1 of HS2 major businesses, such as Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Jacobs, have already established premises in Birmingham, making HS2 a catalyst for job creation outside of London.

Midlands Voices: The Key Reasons Why HS2 Is Necessary

  • HS2 will level up the Midlands regional economy and improve both east-west and north-south connections
  • the project will help the country recover economically from the coronavirus pandemic
  • it will give passengers a transformed transport offer with more connections, more capacity and faster services
  • HS2 will increase jobs in the region, as well as access to them, which will build skills in the area
  • HS2 will benefit the environment by enabling modal shift and helping to reduce air pollution
Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, said:

“We have one of the most centralised states in the world and we have very stubborn imbalances in regional growth, regional productivity, regional wealth and we’re not going to be able to rebalance our country until we get in place significant transport infrastructure like HS2.”

Currently, the East Midlands has the lowest transport investment per capita of any region in the UK (245 GBP, compared to the UK average of 483 GBP).

Scott Knowles, CEO of East Midlands Chamber, said the East Midlands’ chronically low transport spend per head, was causing nearly “14% of the Eastern Leg’s working population [to live] in transport poverty”.

Both legs of Phase 2b should go ahead, allowing through trains to be moved off the existing rail network to free up regional capacity for residents, while allowing greater mobility throughout the country, giving passengers domestic options that are not aviation. Any project that is both beneficial to the environment and the economy should be a no-brainer.

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