Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has warned that Birmingham needs high speed rail to create jobs and attract employers – and hit out at “London-based” opponents of the scheme.
Speaking to the Birmingham Post, he defended proposals for a new rail network from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, which will include a new station in Birmingham city centre and a second station near the airport.
The project, known as High Speed Two or HS2, is backed by most of the city’s politicians and the Chamber of Commerce, which says the nation’s overloaded railway system must be expanded.
But critics have attacked the cost, estimated at up to £50 billion spread over 19 years,
Mr McLoughlin said there had been much less opposition to major rail schemes in London and the south east, including the Crossrail and Thameslink projects.
“What I do find is there’s a lot of London commentators who are against HS2 who are very happy to see us spend money on Crossrail and on Thameslink. If you put those two schemes together is over £20 billion.
“Yet actually they resent or are against us spending money which connects eight of our ten major cities in this country.
“And I want Birmingham and I want Manchester and Leeds to be able to get the kind of investment that we are seeing around Kings Cross and St Pancras in London at he moment, because it’s a well-connected transport hub.
“Much as Birmingham has done a lot to attract investment, it needs to have those good inter city connections.”
The Transport Secretary, who grew up in Cannock and delivered the Mail as a paperboy when he was a child, said: “I believe it is in the long term interests of United Kingdom PLC and it is in the long term interests of Birmingham.
“Birmingham is the second city, but it can’t just assume it is the second city. It has to be able to attract businesses, it has to be able to attract jobs.
“Look, in certain respects the easiest thing for a Government to do would be not to build this. Just walk away from it. There’s certainly no short term gain.
“But I strongly believe it is in the best interests of the country.”