High-speed rail officials pledged the HS2 line could create about 50,000 jobs as they visited to Birmingham.
HS2 chief executive Alison Munro spoke as the company’s board met in the city, which they said was at the heart of the controversial £40 billion development.
She said 40,000 jobs in the construction, station development and operation and maintenance fields would be created during phase one of the project, linking Birmingham and London.
And around 8,000 workers would be needed around the Birmingham Curzon Street and Interchange stations, Ms Munro added.
“The Midlands is very well placed to benefit from the opportunity,” she said. “We have added up full possibilities and the opportunity around the two stations is for 8,000 jobs, with 22,000 jobs identified by Centro in total.
Ms Munro said that, by the late 2020s, it was estimated HS2 would create around 50,000 jobs – with the eventual total potentially even greater than existing predictions suggested.
HS2 chairman Douglas Oakervee said the meeting, at Birmingham council house, was part of a drive by the company to increasingly involve the regions in which it will operate.
He said: “We realise HS2 is a national railway, not a London-centric railway, and have decided to have alternate board meeting at one of the core cities around the country.
“We saw Birmingham as the right place to have the first meeting as it forms the very heart of the high speed network that is about to be embarked upon.
“It will continue to be so for the life of HS2, the first railway to be built north of London for 120 years.”
Mr Oakervee said HS2 intended to “optimise job opportunities and benefits to the people of Birmingham”.
“HS2 will change things for the employment market in Birmingham and the regions that surround core cities,” he said. “The whole economy will grow, it will radiate out from core cities.”
Construction of the railway’s first phase is expected to be under way by 2017 and finished by 2026.
Four stations are planned at Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham Interchange and Birmingham Curzon Street.
The leaders of Birmingham and Solihull councils attended the meeting, along with Geoff Inskip, from Centro, and Jerry Blackett, from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group.
Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore said regional representatives had addressed a “number of issues” with the HS2 board.
He said the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership had set up a strategic board which would liaise with the company and would contain a HS2 representative.
Project teams would also deal with particular areas, including the two planned stations, interconnectivity and jobs and skills.
Sir Albert said: “We see a huge opportunity with jobs and skills if we plan this. We feel we can drive this to the benefit of HS2 and ourselves.
“Not only do we need to identify these opportunities, we need to be able to identify the skills needed. We need to ensure we have the skills that will enable local people to get into jobs.”
Solihull Council leader Ken Meeson said the scheme would benefit the region as a whole.
He said: “Although the focus is very much on Birmingham and Solihull LEP, this brings economic benefits to the whole region.
“It brings tremendous benefits to the Black Country and there are opportunities for Coventry and Warwickshire and the surrounding areas. That is why we are backing the bid, though Solihull has still some work to do in terms of the environmental impact.”
Stressing the HS2 scheme was vital for both the region and the country, Mr Oakervee said the West Coast line would be “overwhelmed by 2025 if not before” and HS2 would provide much-needed freight capacity.
Mr Inskip, said: “We are already at capacity. We are up to three trains an hour to London and wanted to put four trains an hour on. This is the only way we can provide the capacity we need.”
The issue of the projected cost was also addressed by Mr Oakervee.
He said: “We have to do it as economically as we can and the HS2 team have a clear remit to drive costs down by introducing efficiencies.
“We’re not going to be cutting corners but we will be driving down efficiencies.”
David Prout, director general HS2 for the Department of Transport, dismissed accusations costs were spiralling out of control. He said: “Those who oppose the modernisation of Britain’s rail network in the second half of the 21st century focus on the budget.
“As far as public finances are concerned we have to make the right sort of allowance, but expect the railway to come in below the allowance we have made. We have security and stability in terms of financing and those who oppose the scheme will use any set of figures to oppose it.”
* Legal challenge to high speed line thrown out by court
The Court of Appeal has rejected the latest challenges to Government plans to go ahead with the HS2 national high-speed rail project linking London with the West Midlands, the North West and Yorkshire.
Fifteen authorities, including Warwickshire County Council, and many other objectors, including residents’ associations along the route, had asked the appeal judges to order further assessment of the scheme as a whole.
The judges dismissed all grounds of challenge but gave the go-ahead for a final appeal to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.
High Speed Rail minister Simon Burns said: “By dismissing all seven grounds of appeal and declining to refer the case to Europe, this is the second time in four months a court has rejected attempts to derail HS2.
“I urge opponents not to waste any more taxpayers’ money on expensive litigation and instead work with us on making HS2 the very best it can be.”
Objectors remained defiant and drew comfort from a split in the three-judge court on the key question of whether a full strategic environmental assessment (SEA) should have been carried out to assess the impact of both HS2 and its alternatives. Hilary Wharf, director of HS2 Action Alliance, said: “It’s a positive move and we are confident that, at the end of the day, the Government are going to have to do a strategic environmental assessment and take their environmental obligations seriously.”
Objectors said HS2 would cost £58 billion or more. The official cost now stands at £42.6 billion.