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City in fight for better HS2 deal

Public and private sector organisations will submit petitions to the HS2 bill calling for better transport links, more jobs and opposing giant 'drainage ponds'

CGI of the planned HS2 rail line
CGI of the planned HS2 rail line

Public and private sector organisations in the region are submitting petitions to the HS2 bill calling for better transport links, more jobs and opposing giant drainage ponds at Washwood Heath.

Business and community leaders have a list of demands to ensure high-speed rail boosts the region's economy, fully plugging HS2 into the region's transport network, prestige designs for the two HS2 stations and maximising employment opportunities on the list.

They also want more jobs at the former LDV base in Washwood Heath - previously a cornerstone of the city's employment plans - and they oppose "balancing ponds" the size of 10 football pitches at the proposed HS2 depot

Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Airport, the National Exhibition Centre and transport authority Centro will submit the petitions later this week although all remain staunch supporters of the high speed rail project.

Speaking on behalf of the petitioners, Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council and chairman of the West Midlands HS2 Strategic Board, said: "HS2 can play a key role in securing the future economic prosperity of the West Midlands and we back the project 100 per cent.

"However, if we are to secure the maximum benefits possible from HS2, we need to make sure the project's design best meets the needs of our region.

"Submitting these petitions does not weaken our support for HS2, it's simply standard practice to enable us to formally seek those changes to the bill that are important to the West Midlands."

The public-private sector group is submitting the petition ahead of a deadline, with the HS2 Bill passing through Parliament with cross-party support to build the line from London to Birmingham and then a second phase to Manchester and Leeds.

They believe the bill can go further in ensuring the region wins the maximum benefits possible both for passengers and the local economy.

Research has found the West Midlands can secure an economic boost worth £4 billion a year and more than 50,000 new jobs by making sure the region's two high speed rail stations are well connected to existing transport links and good use is made of the additional rail capacity released by HS2.

However, schemes like linking the Midland Metro to HS2 and improving links to Eastside are key to this and are likely to be reflected in the petitions.

The petitions are also thought to call for improved links with HS1 further into the future.

The council set out a vision for HS2 in the city centre in its HS2 Birmingham Curzon Masterplan and will call for the two stations in the West Midlands to be "prestige" to reflect their importance to the surrounding areas.

While the region's community leaders are almost invariably major supporters of HS2, Washwood Heath has been a major source of disagreement.

It is proposed the land is used by HS2 as a rolling stock maintenance depot but the council believes this does not consider the full impact of HS2 on the city's employment land supply.

The authority is likely to call to maximise employment on the land as well as greater exploration into using it for advanced manufacturing or technological industries.

Birmingham City Council, along with MP Liam Byrne, has previously made it clear it would sooner see the site used as a high-tech business park to create 6,500 well-paid jobs, calling for the depot to be moved closer to Birmingham Airport.

Mr Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) said last year the HS2 proposals "destroy" the site, adding: "The HS2 plans are so ill-thought through that it includes new 'balancing ponds' the size of nearly 10 football pitches despite the fact the site borders the River Tame which can away run-off water from the track."

The council has also previously expressed concern at the company's plans to use a freight rail terminal at Jaguar's Castle Bromwich plans to move construction materials into the city.

 
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