Businesses leaders say Birmingham will benefit from reduced travel times and increased inward investment after the Government announced that a national high speed rail network will link Birmingham to London.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham and Solihull Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCI), said: “We welcome today’s announcement by Lord Adonis.
"Reduced travel times and increased capacity will create new market opportunities, attract investment and significantly increase the region’s accessibility to workers, customers and suppliers, leading to higher levels of productivity.
“The improved connectivity to London will significantly benefit the region’s financial and business services sector with benefits equivalent to £106 per worker per year in Birmingham, over a 60-year period.”
A Birmingham Chamber led survey of regional businesses indicated strong private sector support for the high speed rail link. Eighty-eight per cent of respondents indicated that the West Midlands economy would benefit from a London to West Midland high speed rail link, a further 86 per cent felt the region would benefit from a national network.
Fifty-six per cent of respondents indicated that a London to West Midland link would be of direct benefit to their business, and 53 per cent felt they would directly benefit from a national network
Mr. Blackett said: “Evidence from Birmingham and Solihull Chamber of Commerce members indicates that at least a quarter of businesses increased their rail usage in 2008.
"Commuters appreciate the ability to work on trains and journey times are crucial. A high speed rail journey from Birmingham to London would be cut from an average of 126 minutes to just 45 minutes. Estimates suggest that this would save some £3.9 billion in time and cost, the majority to business travellers.
“A link to London will also place the region within the capital’s commuter belt allowing a greater number of typically high earners to settle in the West Midlands.
Back office functions are more likely to relocate to the West Midlands as firms take advantage of Birmingham’s more competitive cost structures with little relocation likely to occur in the other direction.”
Simon Topman, Chairman of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce and Industry said: “Not just Birmingham but the entire region will see an enormous advantage from this major infrastructure development - businesses in particular. This could enable the West Midlands to become an even more important trading region in the UK.”
David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Continued investment in Britain's transport infrastructure will underpin economic growth, support business in driving recovery and create jobs. That is why we support a comprehensive HSR network that provides vital extra capacity and helps British companies compete on a global scale.
"With the public finances in such a poor state, the budget for this important project needs to be carefully considered. HSR is a long-term investment but it cannot be built at the expense of the current rail network. There must now be a binding, cross-party political consensus to ensure that both HSR and upgrades to the existing rail system proceed over the next two decades."
CBI deputy director-general John Cridland described the plans as "visionary". He said: "For much of the last century, there was simply not enough long-term planning on our railways, so it is encouraging to see this kind of visionary thinking.
"We need investment in our railways over the long-term to avoid congestion, especially on the crowded West Coast line. The strong long-term pipeline for engineering, construction, jobs and growth is also very welcome.
"But HSR will come with a hefty price tag and sooner or later the question of who pays for it will have to be answered. Private sector support for the concept of HSR should not be misread as a willingness to write a blank cheque.
"At a time of severely stretched public finances a full and open consultation on private funding will be essential. Equally, HSR must not be allowed to drain investment from other transport priorities.
"The Mawhinney review of future potential links with Heathrow is an important element of today's announcement."