High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Birmingham City Council (HSR 67)


1.1  Birmingham City Council unanimously welcomes the Government's plans for HS2. At its meeting of 11 January 2011, the Council voted to welcome plans to bring High Speed Rail—HS2—to the centre of Birmingham and resolved to work with other local authorities to promote the benefits of the proposals, noting:

—  its potential to free up capacity on the West Coast Main Line, creating new routes such as Walsall to Birmingham International;

—  that an independent economic study has suggested it could generate 10,000 to 22,0000 extra jobs in the West Midlands conurbation and an increase in economic output of between £600 million to £1.5 billion;

—  that the benefits of improved transport links will flow to the wider region, especially member authorities of the Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership;

—  that the success of the project will require improved connectivity in the city centre, especially linking New Street, Moor Street and the proposed new Curzon Street station, to make the centre a friendly and convenient interchange for passengers from throughout the region;

—  that HS2 will provide a swift land route, not only to London and other strategic commercial and industrial centres, but to Europe as well.

1.2  The Council further welcomed government commitment to continued investment in other major city centre projects such as New Street Gateway, and called upon the Executive to:

—  set out proposals for a step change in connectivity at the time of High Speed Rail beginning operation; and

—  continue to ensure that Birmingham plays a full part in preparing the way for HS2 by working practically and strategically with Centro (Integrated Transport Authority), operators and other relevant agencies/bodies on, for instance improving City Centre transport links and encouraging HS2 passengers to use public transport and walkable routes, recognising that a city Congestion Strategy is essential if journeys to the new station are not to be longer than the HSR's 49 minute journey time to London.

1.3  Officers and Members of the Council have been working with Greengauge 21, the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd over the past three years to initially promote the concept and to develop the proposals.

1.4  There are regular meetings, led by the City Council, of the West Midlands Regional High Speed Two Steering Group. This was established by the Regional Development Agency, Advantage West Midlands in 2009 in order to bring together metropolitan and shire local authorities, both for and against HS2, to exchange information and ensure promotion of the issues in an even handed manner.

2.  The strategic significance of High Speed Rail to economic development in Birmingham

2.1  Birmingham has long recognised that its commitment to driving economic growth in the Midlands is dependent upon maintaining and enhancing its strategic location at the heart of the UK transport networks. The strategic significance of this connectivity is reflected both in Birmingham's Big City Plan and the emerging Growth Strategy for the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.

2.2  Evidence from Network Rail's Route Utilisation Strategies and from forecasts prepared for the Department of Transport suggests that the West Coast Mainline will reach full capacity by the mid 2020s, and that there is a compelling case for enhancing the inter-city rail network to deliver substantially increased capacity and improved performance.

2.3  Failure to invest would result in a very real risk that local and regional services will be pushed off the West Coast Main Line to make way for more profitable intercity services and that would hit hundreds of thousands of regional commuters and shorter distance travellers. It would also damage local economies and stifle economic growth and job creation.

2.4  Building HS2 will, however, release badly needed capacity on the classic rail network. In the West Midlands, this would allow increased service frequencies to local destinations such as Lichfield and Tamworth, supporting the emerging Growth Strategy of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP which envisages enhanced internal connectivity as being key to harnessing the collective economic strengths of the area and driving forward productivity. HS2 will also open up opportunities for more regional rail services, linking towns currently without direct services.

2.5  We are mindful of the Centre for Policy Studies Report "Conditions for Growth" which focuses on how government policy can help to improve the UK's emergence from recession. It highlights that whilst public investment in the UK is planned to be around the OECD average for 2010 onwards, it was historically among the lowest from 2000-07. This study highlights the importance of not cutting investment in areas such as infrastructure, which will help facilitate growth in the future. As a "global city with a local heart", Birmingham feels strongly that investing in the international competitiveness of UK PLC is critical to securing good quality of life for our residents.

2.6  We believe that the business case published by the Department for Transport provides a conservative estimate of the benefits of the scheme. For example, we are aware that long-distance intercity travel has grown at 5% a year, more than doubling between 1994-95 and 2009-10, whilst the Department for Transport business case is based upon projections of an increase in passenger demand of only 1.4% per year.[83]

3.  Why the alternatives are not acceptable

3.1  A national high-speed network would provide the best value for money solution to the capacity challenge. A new railway will deliver a step-change in capacity and reliability that cannot be matched by upgrading the existing network. Providing a high-speed railway line will substantially reduce journey times between our major cities, benefiting passengers and thereby delivering a much better economic return than lower-speed alternatives.

3.2  In this matter, we share the view set out in the findings of research undertaken by Atkins for the department of Transport in 2009 and 2010; for the Strategic Rail Authority in 2003; Network Rail's New Lines Programme and Greengauge 21's 2009 Fast Forward Programme.

3.3  The modernisation of the West Coast Main Line, which cost £8.8 billion, resulted in nine years of delay and disruption, and still failed to deliver the level of enhanced capacity needed, is still fresh in our minds. As we strive to promote Birmingham as the best place to do business, this is a scenario we do not wish to see repeated.

3.4  In contrast, HS1 was built to time and to budget.

3.5  Other modes of transport—air and road—cannot deliver the additional capacity needed without environmental costs and increased carbon emissions.

4.  Why commitment is needed to a national high-speed network

4.1  Birmingham supports the findings of Greengauge 21's research that there is an excellent case for a national high speed rail network which will deliver economic benefits and improved connectivity across all parts of Britain, and that there should be a long-term strategy for its delivery and implementation in phases, along the lines of the planning and development of the national motorway network from the 1950s onwards.

4.2  As an active member of the Core Cities network supporting HS2, Birmingham, along with Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, recognise the collective potential of UK cities to drive Britain's economic recovery. A step change in the speed and quality of rail connections between our cities is a key ingredient in achieving this potential.

4.3  Recent independent forecasts[84] have demonstrated that the new Core Cities' Local Enterprise partnership areas are capable of producing an additional 1 million jobs and £44 billion of Gross Value Added over the next ten years, dependent on influencing a number of growth factors, including infrastructure.

5.  Economic rebalancing and equity—why High Speed Rail is needed to bring prosperity to the Midlands

5.1  The enhanced connectivity to London and the South-East; and to the northern cities is critical to giving our local economy a boost. HS2 will reduce journey times between major cities to below the critical one hour, enhancing leisure, business and commuting activities. At present, London is well connected to the continent by HS1 and to several international airports. Birmingham City Council wishes to see through services to HS1, making continental trips by rail more attractive and delivering significant carbon savings.

5.2  The opportunities for concentrated development around the station sites will be grasped. Both the Birmingham City Centre location and the Birmingham Airport/M42 location are encompassed by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP's emerging Growth Strategy. Whilst the jobs which come to these locations will attract applicants from a wide area, we will take specific measures to ensure that opportunities are accessible to people from local communities where worklessness is high.

5.3  Local investment will be needed in access infrastructure, people movers and feeder services. The cost of this should not fall solely on local tax payers and we believe that it is appropriate that the Government should seek support from the EU's TEN-T programme, especially given the European Union's commitment to the development of a Trans-European High-Speed Rail Network.

6.  Wider Impacts

6.1  We share the Government's commitment to reducing carbon emissions from transport. Whilst we believe that more needs to be done, for example in reducing the carbon emissions associated with electricity generation, to reduce the carbon footprint of future rail travel, current projections would appear to suggest that moving one seat one kilometre at 225 mph creates no more carbon than the current Pendolino fleet at 125 mph. Decarbonisation of the UK's electricity supply will bring further benefits. Creating a step change in rail capacity to accommodate future growth is essential. Analysis by ATOC for Greengauge 21 has demonstrated that a journey by high speed rail today would generate only one-third of the CO2 emissions of a comparable car journey and one-quarter the emissions of a comparable journey by air; the advantages of HSR will only improve in future.

6.2  Ensuring that local transport networks are developed to ensure that door-to-door journey times by public transport and active modes will contribute to realising these benefits.

6.3  Noise impacts on people and properties close to the line of route remain in some measure uncertain. HS1's impact has been masked to some extent by the route passing close to existing busy roads— similar to the proposed HS2 route into Birmingham. Noise is, understandably, a source of concern to local residents. Joint working between HS2 Ltd and the Highways Agency will be needed to understand and mitigate the combined train and traffic noise.

May 2011

83   Greengauge21, HS2-why the critics are wrong 2010 Back

84   Oxford Economics "Our Cities, Our Future" Core Cities 2011 Back

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Prepared 8 November 2011