By Sir Albert Bore
Today another major milestone is reached for Britain’s high speed rail ambitions.
A Bill is going into Parliament that will give the Government permission to build and run the first leg of the new north-south rail line between London and the West Midlands.
If the Bill is passed successfully – expected around 2015 – then initial construction work can begin in 2016/17 and the first trains will arrive at a 21st century high speed rail station at Moor Street in Eastside.
This first phase will free up much needed space on our crowded railways, particularly at the southern end of the network, and shorten journey times between the capital and our city.
I personally am greatly encouraged that this legislation has gone into Parliament now as there has been a huge amount of debate about the merits of the project and whether it would even go ahead.
This Bill is a real statement of intent from the Government and very much underlines that it is going to happen.
We should be proud that Birmingham is to be at the very heart of the so called Y-network, with trains running north in Phase Two from Moor Street through the East Midlands to Sheffield and Leeds and along the western leg through Crewe and on to Manchester.
The proposed HS2 routes
This will greatly improve transport connections between the main population centres outside London with the all the resulting benefits this can bring.
HS2 will be an engine for growth bringing thousands of jobs to Birmingham.
Construction alone will support 9000 jobs, there will be 1400 operation and maintenance positions and the regeneration around the new stations will support some 30,000 jobs.
These will be a good mix of unskilled, semi-skilled and advanced IT roles and there are also huge opportunities for local businesses to get involved in the supply chain needed for high speed rail.
Earlier this month the company developing the project - HS2 Ltd – held a supply chain conference at the ICC to set out how companies can plug into some £10bn worth of contracts.
The event was heavily oversubscribed with around 800 companies applying for the 600 available spaces.
Further conferences on this will be held in 2014 and urge the West Midlands companies in this field to get themselves ready.
HS2 brings career opportunities to our city too, not just short term jobs.
The process has started already with the Birmingham Baccalaureate HS2 module having been piloted in schools this summer and I want to develop a centre of excellence around the infrastructure maintenance depot that will be built at Washwood Heath.
High speed rail can’t come soon enough for me and I will do all that I can in the meantime to make sure that Birmingham is HS2 ready.