The £50 billion investment in HS2 offers a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity to transform our major cities’ according to city leader Sir Albert Bore.
Speaking at the launch of the HS2: Get Ready report the Labour leader also announced that Birmingham is ‘ahead of the game’ with its plans for Curzon Street station and regeneration already well advanced.
He said: “The next challenge for us in this region is the HS2 Interchange at Solihull,” and explained that land ownership issues need to be tied up next.
The report from the HS2 Growth Taskforce, led by former London Olympic chief Lord Paul Deighton, gave 19 recommendations to Government, HS2 Ltd and local authorities along the route to ensure that every penny of economic value is squeezed from the project.
As well as proudly announcing that Birmingham is leading the way with advanced regeneration plans, transport connectivity plans and growth strategies, Sir Albert called on the young people of the city gear up for high-end engineering and construction training to ensure they make the most of the jobs on offer.
The HS2: Get Ready report states that there is already a huge shortage of railway engineers, with an additional 10,000 trained workers needed over the next five years alone, and that HS2 will make the problem even ‘more acute’ unless action is taken.
With the former LDV and Alstom manufacturing sites at Washwood Heath already earmarked by HS2 Ltd for a train development and maintenance depot, Birmingham will be in pole position to capitalise on the highly-skilled jobs.
He said: “In Birmingham we have a young population with 38 per cent of people under 24. Skills development and the apprenticeship programme are very important to this city and the West Midlands.
“We need to make sure we have the right skills to make sure our young people have access to those jobs.”
Chairman of the business development agency the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, Andy Street, added that Birmingham is competing with other cities to be the host for a new HS2 Skills College which will turn teenagers into skilled engineers.
He also called on engineering businesses in the region to support the college bid. “The commitment of our businesses to work with our education sector could make the difference,” he added.
Meanwhile Solihull council leader Ken Meeson has expressed disappointment that the Taskforce report does not look much beyond the key cities on the HS2 route.
He said: “This is going to be the biggest development in the land. It is a national project. We need to look at the benefits for Tamworth, Redditch, Coventry even Warwickshire and not just be concerned with the cities.”
He said there is potential for business and enterprise around the region.
And added that already firms are talking about relocating to the area around the HS2 Interchange.
Architect and chief executive of Millennium Point Philip Singleton said: “In my 24 years in Birmingham this could be the most significant thing I have seen happen to our city. So it is obvious we need to do something to absolutely and resolutely respond to this exciting opportunity.”
He praised the Curzon Street Station plan and said that its arrival has made the various organisations at Eastside more ‘ambitious and keen’ to welcome HS2.