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Why second phase of HS2 is crucial for Birmingham and the UK as a whole

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

2017 witnessed a number of momentous landmarks in the lifetime of HS2. Royal Assent for Phase 1 saw construction work begin and turned the project from a possibility to a reality. In July, the Queen’s Speech revealed that legislation relating to Phase 2A (the start of the extension of the line northwards from Birmingham) had been brought forward in Parliament, which again underlined the national significance of this major investment in infrastructure.

As a Chamber, we have fully supported the project from inception and backing for the programme is especially high amongst our membership. For example, surveying from our recent Quarterly Business Report revealed that 70% of businesses in our region felt HS2 would be beneficial for the local economy. However, just because construction work has started, that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels.  This is just the start of the process and it is vital that momentum is maintained if we are to grasp the full benefits of the programme.

The second phase of the project will launch in two distinct phases and in many ways is crucial to the prospects of our region and the country as a whole. Phase 2A will run from the West Midlands up to Crewe beginning in 2027 and Phase 2B will run from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds in 2033. Furthermore, the catalytic effect of the project will extend far beyond cities that will contain a new High Speed Station.

Specifically, HS2 trains will join existing networks and bring widespread socio-economic uplifts to a variety of cities and towns across the UK. For example, local authorities in Darlington, Liverpool, Newcastle and Wigan are just a few of the local authorities making HS2 a fundamental element of their regeneration plans for decades to come. In particular, 100 cities and towns could benefit from new or improved rail connections and HS2 will directly link 8 of the UK’s ten largest cities.

A recent economic case study commissioned by the Department of Transport indicated that HS2 represents extremely high value for money with a Benefit Cost Ratio of 2.3. However, the full benefits of the project extend far beyond monetary gains. More than half of the benefits from HS2 will emerge as a result of improved reliability, reduced waiting times, less cars on the road and more frequent services. In the West Midlands itself, the project is expected to create over 104,000 jobs and is estimated to increase productivity in the region by £3.1bn.

At the core of the matter is the fact that Phase 2 will put our region at the heart of a new national network. It will connect Birmingham to other major towns and cities across the country and allow our businesses to access new domestic and international markets in order to trade in new skills and products. Not only will this provide a major uplift to our productivity levels, it will also play a massive role in rebalancing the economy – a key part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

That is why is it is crucial we see the progression of the Phase 2A Bill through Parliament and ensure it stays on track to achieve Royal Assent. I have been writing to local politicians to encourage them to vote in support of the Bill ahead of its second reading this week. As Brexit negotiations continue to cast an uncertain cloud, it is vital the Government doesn’t divert from strengthening the UK economy and investing in its products and people. Collectively, let’s make sure that HS2 gets the support it deserves - it will benefit us and our future generations for decades to come.

Paul Faulkner
Chief executive
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce