There is “a good case” for building a new high speed rail network with Birmingham at its heart - but only if it runs to Leeds and Manchester as well as London, MPs have warned.
Plans for a new £32 billion high speed line, including a major new station in Birmingham city centre and a second near Birmingham Airport, received a major boost after they were backed by an influential committee.
The Commons Transport Committee said: “We believe that there is a good case for proceeding with a high-speed rail network, principally because of the substantial improvements in capacity and connectivity that it would provide, not only for services to and from London but also between the major cities of the Midlands, the North and Scotland.”
But in a new report published today following an inquiry, the MPs criticised plans to introduce legislation to the House of Commons which only authorises plans to build a service from London to Birmingham.
The scheme, known as High Speed Two or HS2, only makes economic sense if it includes cities further north, the MPs said.
And the committee warned the scheme would only boost the economy if the Government also helped fund local transport and housing schemes.
Birmingham City Council argues that high speed rail and a new station at Curzon Street will regenerate the eastern part of Birmingham city centre, while a study from consultants KPMG claims it will boost the West Midlands economy by £1.5 billion, the equivalent of a £300 rise in average wages.
But the inquiry said: “If high-speed rail is to realise its full potential the Government’s plans for HS2 must be accompanied by complementary regional and local strategies for transport, housing, skills and
employment. Under current Government policies, the responsibility for producing such plans rests with local economic partnerships, integrated transport authorities and combinations of such bodies.
“Support—not least with funding—will be needed from the Government. We call upon the Government to recognise this as a priority.”
The findings will be seized on by both supporters and opponents of the controversial project.
Committee chair Louise Ellman said: “High speed rail is affordable: HS2 will cost around £2 billion per annum over 17 years. Construction of a high speed rail network should start with the line between London and the West Midlands, as this is where capacity needs are greatest. But we are concerned that under current plans high speed rail lines won’t reach Manchester and Leeds for more than 20 years.”