There is no row over the route to be taken by a new high-speed rail line to London, the chief executive of Birmingham City Council has insisted.
Stephen Hughes denied reports that the authority was at loggerheads with business leaders and MPs who believe high-speed rail services must stop at Birmingham International Airport and the National Exhibition Centre.
He said services would use two Birmingham stations – one in the city centre and a “parkway” station, which would probably be near the airport.
The city council is pushing for a direct link between London and Birmingham city centre and has succeeded in persuading Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, to back the case for services into the city.
The agency’s stance follows discussions by a strategy board whose members include council leader Mike Whitby but Birmingham Airport has insisted it should be included in a new high-speed route. The NEC is calling for a full review of the economic impact of various options before a decision is made.
The Government has launched a review into how and where a high-speed rail service should be built, chaired by former civil servant Sir David Rowlands, which will present its findings to Transport Secretary Lord Adonis by the end of the year.
Conservatives, who are also planning a high-speed rail line if they form a government after the next general election, have been working with partners including consultants Arup to draw up plans. They will also have access to Sir David’s findings.
The debate between the council and business leaders is about the stance that the city and region’s representatives should take when they contribute to those inquiries. But Mr Hughes, in a letter to The Birmingham Post, insisted there was no disagreement.
He said: “The idea that there will only be one station within the area is not correct. It is not a question of Birmingham International or a city centre terminus. The studies indicate the main demand is between city centres but a parkway station will also be desirable – this is best located at the Airport/NEC.
“The other misleading comment is that it would be very expensive to run into the city centre, as Birmingham is fortunate to have available track or land capacity in the London rail corridors.
“I can assure you that council officers are not at loggerheads with anyone. I am keen that Birmingham and the West Midlands continues to make a leading contribution to the development of the national high-speed rail network. It seems important that we have a mature debate once we have some facts.”
However, Sir David made it clear earlier this month that there was no guarantee of high-speed services stopping at more than one station in the West Midlands. Speaking following a session of the Transport Select Committee, he said a single station, whether in the city centre or a “parkway” was a possibility.
If trains run directly from London to the city centre, one option might be a high-speed shuttle service running from the centre to the airport and NEC.