Dear Editor, Councillor Huxtable raises a very serious concern when he says that it was imperative that plans were in line with priorities for the region.
There are two very important decisions that need to be considered about the route of the high speed line. The first is whether the line goes through the centre of Birmingham and the second is what stations will serve the West Midlands. Getting these decisions right is essential for the West Midlands to share the full economic development and tourism benefits that high speed rail can deliver.
But a word of caution. There are many influential people taking part in the high speed rail debate for whom a non stop journey to London from a city further north is higher priority than stopping in Birmingham en route and many proposed route maps have shown a high speed rail map bypassing the city with a short branch line into Birmingham for trains from Birmingham to London only.
If the high speed line bypasses Birmingham city centre, the West Midlands will lose. There will be very little savings in journey times from Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds to Birmingham city centre, even with the bypass line serving Birmingham International. Journey times from those cities to London will only take a few minutes longer and business and tourists will by pass the city. In addition operators of trains to Europe via the Channel Tunnel will have to run separate trains to Manchester and Birmingham, thereby reducing train loadings and reducing the number of profitable services.
So a high speed line going through the centre of Birmingham is essential for the prosperity of Birmingham and the West Midlands. A possible route is the former Great Western route from Solihull to Jewellery Quarter, a short length in tunnel under Handsworth to Bescot and following existing railway tracks to Penkridge avoiding Wolverhampton.
The next critical decision is the location for a station. This has to be situated close to the city centre and be in a location where all the main radial routes either pass by or can be easily diverted, because without cross platform interchange with existing local services it will not be so easy to fill high capacity trains. Possibly a site just south east of Moor street could offer the best all round solution.
Graham Nalty, Boulton Moor, Derby