Wise advice today from Birmingham Airport corporate affairs director John Morris, who cautions against falling into the trap of believing that those planning a high speed rail link from London to Scotland must choose only one stop in the West Midlands.
It would be madness, sheer madness, if a 220-mph service from central London to Heathrow, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow did not stop at Birmingham International – to serve the airport and NEC. Certainly, with the certainty that Heathrow’s third runway will be scrapped if the Conservatives win the next general election, a potential 45-minute express train service between BIA and Heathrow becomes even more important.
Equally, it must not be, as Mr Morris rightly puts it, a case of either or. It would be absurd, as well as highly damaging for the local economy, if high speed trains bypassed Birmingham on their way to Manchester and all points north.
Ensuring that a high speed rail terminus is provided somewhere in the city centre must be a number one priority for the city council and the strategic partnership Be Birmingham, even if this task has been made all the more difficult by the short-sighted and cavalier way in which plans for a Grand Central station at Eastside were ditched.
Sir David Rowlands, chairman of High Speed Two, has clearly reached the same conclusion, noting that people wishing to use high speed rail to travel from London to Birmingham would not find it convenient to be dropped off some 10 miles out of the city centre.
What Sir David will have to do, though, is persuade the Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, that it is necessary, possible and affordable to have dedicated high speed rail platforms at one of the Birmingham stations, or perhaps even to build a new station.
Lord Adonis, it should be noted, has already begun to prepare the ground in several speeches where he underlined the difficulty of finding the capacity in Birmingham’s over-crowded rail network to bring high speed trains into the city centre.
His comments set a very dangerous hare running, leading to unsubstantiated claims that the city council and airport were at each others throats over the best location for a high speed station to serve Birmingham.
It is vital that both station proposals – Airport/NEC and Birmingham city centre – are secured and nothing less than a concerted campaign by West Midlands councils, businesses and interested organisations will do.
It would be misleading, however, if we did not point out what the council will see as an inconvenient truth – it will prove extremely costly to get High Speed Two into the city centre.