The new high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham (HS2) has been given the thumbs-up from the Government. Work could begin, however, only as early as 2016.
Transport secretary Justine Greening is backing the 100-mile link and first phase of High Speed Two, which would cut the journey time from London to the NEC Birmingham to 50 minutes.
The first phase of the scheme, which the Government believes will address overcrowding issues, will cost £17bn and be completed by 2026. The 225mph trains could cut the journey time from London to Birmingham and alleviate pressure on existing routes between London and the Midlands.
Legal action by opponents and environmentalists, who fear the scheme will come at a high cost to the countryside between London and Birmingham, is expected to cause delay. However Greening is working on measures aimed at mitigating the negative impact of the new line.
Ian Taylor, Commercial Director at Marketing Birmingham, the city’s strategic marketing partnership which operates Birmingham’s business tourism programme Meet Birmingham, told CN: “HS2 offers huge benefits for Birmingham’s events sector by providing event organisers and their international and national delegates with quicker, easier and more reliable transport access to the area.
“For organisers to continue considering Birmingham as a leading events destination, we need to ensure our connectivity offer is globally competitive. Birmingham is investing more into its transport infrastructure in the next five years than it has in the past 25, through projects such as the £600m New Street Gateway and the expansion of Birmingham Airport. HS2 will enhance this offer and future proof our links for the next generation.
“High-speed rail is already in operation in countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, China and the USA. For Birmingham to remain a competitive destination in the worldwide events market it must remain a globally connected city; so HS2 is not beneficial for growth in the region, it is essential.”
The complete cost of the project, including the 2033 second phase links to Manchester and Leeds, is expected to be £32bn.
Jerry Blackett, Chief Executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said the link to the city had been a long time coming.
“Birmingham has been held back by its infrastructure and in particular its transport infrastructure,” he said.
“The most unique thing about the city is its geography – its location in the heart of the country. But this does not often feel like an advantage because of the difficulty of moving through and across the city.
“People’s impression is of a congested M6. The HS2 scheme will help the city reach its potential and change people’s perceptions of a city that’s not quite working in transport terms.”
A chamber survey of 200 of its members found 75 per cent believed the link would benefit their business.
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