Britain’s planned high speed rail network will bring major economic benefits to the West Midlands, Transport Minister Norman Baker has told the region.
Speaking at a Parliamentary Reception hosted by transport authority Centro, Mr Baker urged key figures from the region’s local authorities, business community and transport industry to grab the opportunity and do all they could to capitalise on the huge economic gains offered by high speed.
Mr Baker told guests at the House of Commons event that the Government’s plans for high speed rail would put Birmingham and the West Midlands at the heart of a national network that would help reduce the North-South divide.
He said the network, which would initially link London with Birmingham before continuing north in a Y-shaped network branching west to Manchester and east to Leeds, would shift some of the economic focus away from the south east of England and towards the Midlands and the north of the country. Mr Baker said the West Midlands should take the opportunity to fully exploit the potential rewards.
Centro’s chief executive Geoff Inskip, said after the reception: “The Minister is absolutely right in identifying the West Midlands as being well placed to reap the substantial economic rewards of high speed.
“I can assure him we will do everything we can to maximise those opportunities. Indeed, we have already commissioned research which shows that by improving our local transport system to better connect and feed into high speed rail we can actually double the forecasted economic benefits.”
Research has shown the link from London to Birmingham alone would boost the West Midlands’ economic output by £600m, creating 10,000 additional jobs and bringing an average wage increase of £100 a year for each worker.
However, these figures can be more than doubled to a £1.5 bn increase in West Midlands economic output, 22,000 new jobs and an average wage increase of £300 a year by making improvements to the region’s own public transport network so that it better connects with high speed rail.
In a key note speech to the Parliamentary reception Mr Inskip had earlier told guests that Centro, together with the Black Country, Birmingham, Solihull and the region’s business community , was taking a lead role in supporting the case for High Speed Rail to the West Midlands.
“Transport affects our everyday lives so it is important we put those resources that Transport Ministers have fought so hard for in the comprehensive spending review to effective use in growing our local economy and reducing carbon emissions,” he said.
“That’s why I am so pleased that our major projects programme continues with the rebuilding of New Street Station, Wolverhampton Interchange, Stourbridge Bus Station, the diversion of the A45 and the Birmingham Airport runway extension, Smartcard and of course the extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham city centre.”