Britain’s biggest infrastructure project in decades is to achieve Royal Assent, as HS2 – the eagerly-awaited high speed rail link between London and Birmingham – is to be given the green light.
The HS2 hybrid Bill has become an Act of Parliament and means the West Midlands can press ahead with plans to use the rail link as a catalyst to drive economic growth and deliver an additional £14bn to the UK economy (GVA).
The Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy, which has been adopted by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) with support from central Government and HS2 Ltd, is set to also deliver 104,000 jobs, 2,000 apprenticeships and improved accessibility for the two million people connected to the West Midlands’ HS2 stations in Birmingham and Solihull.
In addition, the region is poised to reap significant economic benefits long before the first high-speed journey is made. The £1bn Curzon Investment Plan, which outlines plans to regenerate the area surrounding the main HS2 terminal in Birmingham, will extend the size of the city centre core – supporting a combination of retail, commercial and residential development designed to cement Birmingham as a premier business and tourism destination.
Although Royal Assent is only just being granted, the region has taken advantage of HS2-related momentum before the first arrivals board has even lit up. The £22 million National College for High Speed Rail, which will train the next generation of high-speed rail engineers, is building its Birmingham campus in the city’s Learning Quarter and is due to open in September.
HS2 Ltd has opened its construction headquarters in Birmingham city centre, which will employ up to 1,300 people, while businesses such as HSBC, Jacobs Engineering and Carter Jonas have citied HS2 as a major factor behind their city centre relocations – moves that will create over 2,000 further jobs. Meanwhile, global construction and support services firm Interserve is building its new regional HQ at UK Central in Solihull to take advantage of the planned Interchange Station, the first HS2 stop on the route out of London.
The region’s Growth Hubs are also providing SMEs with targeted support to help them win millions of pounds of contract opportunities created by Britain’s biggest infrastructure project in decades.
Councillor Bob Sleigh, Chair of the WMCA, said:
“This is the news that the West Midlands has been waiting for. HS2 is going to happen and we’re ready to capitalise fully on the opportunities it offers to transform places, create jobs and attract investment.
Royal Assent is important because it makes HS2 an absolute reality and means the West Midlands can now fully deliver its HS2 ambitions. Those ambitions have a clear focus on jobs, apprenticeships, major investment at the two station sites in Solihull and Birmingham and millions of pounds of contract opportunities for West Midlands SMEs.
The arrival of HS2 and the associated improvements to our local transport infrastructure means we’ll be one of the best-connected parts of the UK.
All of this means the West Midlands has never been better positioned to make such an outstanding contribution to UK plc right now, and for years to come too.
My message to the people of the West Midlands and beyond who are wondering what HS2 will give them, is that this is so much more than a fast train. The arrival of HS2 will allow us to create a legacy and will help secure your future, your children’s future and probably your grandchildren’s future too.”