Region joins forces on High Speed Rail

By on 16/09/2009 in News

West Midland's leaders and transport bosses today praised top level plans for a High Speed Rail link which will connect Birmingham to London in 45 minutes and Paris in just three hours.


Greengauge 21, the organisation set up to research and develop a case for High Speed Rail in the UK, unveiled its major study showing for the first time what a national High Speed network linking Britain's major cities could look like, the benefits it will bring and how much it might cost.


It shows there is real value in creating quicker rail links between the North West, the West Midlands and London in the first stage of a new High Speed Rail network, increasing national and regional transport capacity which is essential in supporting long-term economic growth both locally and across Britain.


The study also highlights how poor access to London, Heathrow and Europe from major urban areas like the West Midlands has caused constraints and frustrations which have restricted growth.


Greengauge 21 predicts that High Speed Rail will address this issue through the “transformational journey times and reliability” it offers and by providing direct links for cities to Europe's High Speed Rail network. This, it says, will lead to a step change in people's decisions on where to live and set up business.


Leader of Birmingham City Council, Mike Whitby said: “High Speed Rail is becoming a vital strategic need for cities that want to compete effectively on a global scale. It already plays a fundamental role in major national economies across the world and the UK needs to ensure that High Speed Rail is a priority investment.  

“A High Speed Rail line connecting Birmingham city centre and the airport with London and the north will give the West Midlands an increased competitive advantage, making the region even more attractive as a place to live, work, visit and especially do business, and putting Birmingham on the map as a global city.”


The region also demonstrated a united voice in calling for the High Speed Rail link to stop at station in both the city centre and at a station on the outskirts of Birmingham, supported in the Greengauge report which says there is scope for edge-of-city hub stations in addition to city centre locations.


A station near to Birmingham International Airport would provide the capacity for through trains to access the north quickly, while a terminal station in the city centre would give high speed rail an easy and efficient interchange with other public transport that it needs for residents and visitors to the region.


Geoff Inskip, chief executive of transport authority Centro said: “As confirmed by today's Greengauge report, a High Speed Rail link between the West Midlands and the nation's other key cities will bring huge economic, social and connectivity benefits to both the region and the nation.


“We are at the heart of Britain's transport network and that is where we should remain, so we welcome the report's finding that there is a strong business case for High Speed Rail in the West Midlands.


“For the region to get the most benefit from High Speed Rail, services should come right into Birmingham city centre, assisting large scale regeneration and development plans and reducing pressure in the South East. They should also serve Birmingham International Airport and Heathrow to attract more long haul air travel to the region.


“This approach would also allow High Speed trains to pass through the West Midlands very quickly while being accessible to as many people as possible regardless of whether they connect to the system by rail, air, car, bus or other modes of transport.


“That is why High Speed Rail with stations at Birmingham airport and in the heart of the city is a regional priority for the West Midlands, and why we are committed to working together to make sure that we are at the centre of Britain's High Speed Rail network.”


The Greengauge report explains the need for additional capacity on transport systems across Britain, which, it says, are stifling business efficiency, productivity growth and investment.


Mick Laverty, chief executive at Advantage West Midlands said: “The Greengauge report supports our belief that a national High Speed Rail network will deliver real economic benefits to the West Midlands, boosting our competitiveness.


“Road congestion and the lack of a fast reliable alternative is often quoted as a key constraint for businesses. A High Speed Rail network will enable businesses to access new markets, increase tourism, decrease road congestion, lower carbon emissions and strengthen the region's appeal as a premier inward investment location.


“We are delighted that the Government, Greengauge 21 and Network Rail all believe High Speed lines to the West Midlands should be the first phase of a national High Speed Rail network.”  


The interconnected network Greengauge proposes would see two north to south routes on the east and west of the country, with three connections linking the two lines in Scotland, the Pennines and between London and South Wales. These will also fully connect with the existing national rail network.


The study envisages that it will take 25 years to build a national High Speed Rail network at a cost of £69 billion. It predicts the network will carry 178 million passengers a year and boost national business, tourism and the economy to the tune of £125bn.


It also  highlights how High Speed Rail can help address climate change by providing an attractive alternative to short-haul flights and long distance car journeys and supporting existing green initiatives, describing it as “the green option for our national transport system”.

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