Plans to build a Grand Central railway station at Eastside are dead and buried and the scheme’s supporters should stop engaging in “pointless” arguments about what might have been, Birmingham City Council chief executive Stephen Hughes has said.
Mr Hughes waded into the debate about whether the £600 million New Street Gateway scheme would meet growing demand for travelling by train, adding that the project’s opponents would never admit they were wrong “to the day they die”.
The council boss was speaking at the end of a difficult fortnight which saw MPs on the Commons Transport Select Committee describe Gateway as a cosmetic exercise which would not increase the capacity of the station to cope with additional services.
And on Friday, writing in The Birmingham Post, Lord Snape, former chairman of Travel West Midlands, warned the refurbishment of New Street would not solve the bottleneck of trains queuing to enter the station and described Gateway supporters as “semi-hysterical and incoherent”.
Mr Hughes said he accepted there would be a problem with rail capacity “in the not too distant future”, but this could be resolved by building an £11 billion high-speed rail link from Birmingham to London operating out of a revamped Moor Street Station.
The scheme, one of several options for Britain’s second high-speed route after the Channel Tunnel link, is being examined by the Government.
He added: “If you shift a whole host of the current inter-city traffic between Birmingham and London to a new dedicated line you free up considerable capacity in the Birmingham to Coventry corridor.”
Mr Hughes accepted that Birmingham could have opted for the Grand Central Station at Eastside, but it was too late to resurrect the project.
“It is impractical. The land has been sold and there is going to be a university campus there. A high speed link from Moor Street is a better answer than a new station at Eastside,” he said.
“New Street Gateway has been thoroughly investigated by the Department for Transport and the Treasury. They have gone through it with a fine tooth comb. The broad consensus is that Gateway is the right answer.
“Should we turn around to the Government and say we have made a wrong decision, please take your £400 million back and we will return in a couple of years time to bid for £2 billion? To put this forward as a serious policy is nonsense?”
His comments were backed by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jerry Blackett, who said the city needed both New Street Gateway and a high-speed rail link. Mr Blackett added: “New Street stacks up. It is more than a rail scheme, it is a regeneration project.”