Dear Editor, I write in response to your article (Post, December 19) regarding the report published by FTI UK questioning the business case for the high speed rail line between London and Birmingham (HS2).
The article makes no mention of the major benefits HS2 will bring to the West Midlands economy. Work commissioned for Centro from KPMG shows that HS2, coupled with enhancements to the rest of the local network, can bring 22,000 jobs to the West Midlands and boost the regional economy by £1.5 billion per annum. Even at a time of major cuts in public expenditure the Government recognises the importance of a high quality transport network to the UK economy.
HSR is something the country cannot afford not to do. And it should pay for itself over time. KPMG’s report in February 2010 for Greengauge 21 entitled High Speed Rail in Britain: Consequences for Employment and Economic Growth looked at the economic benefits of a HSR network and confirmed that the increased tax take to Treasury from increased economic activity would be up to £6 billion per year and this in itself can, over time, pay for the HSR network.
It is also not the case that the extra capacity required on the rail network can be provided by “longer trains and work to reduce bottlenecks”. Network Rail recently published an in-depth strategy review of the existing West Coast main line between London and Birmingham which showed that the route would be full by 2026 although some say it will be much earlier than this.
One of the key benefits of HS2 is that it will release capacity on the existing network for extra services. In the West Midlands this would allow increased service frequencies to local destinations, more regional services and completely new services such as a regular stopping train to Tamworth.
It is this combination of significant economic benefits, faster journey times and the release of badly needed capacity on the existing rail network that makes the case for HS2.
FTI UK also suggests that there is little benefit in shorter journey times, but this misses the point. We need to create more capacity on the rail network by building a new railway line and should therefore take the opportunity to make that line high speed and get all of the benefits that high speed trains bring.
I believe HS2 will be a great improvement for everyone. The opportunity for major investment in this region offered by HS2 should be welcomed by everyone who wants to see a successful and prosperous West Midlands.
Chief executive of Centro