The chairman of a regional transport body has urged the Government to stop “dithering” over HS2 and deliver the entire project.
Midlands Connect chief Sir John Peace said the high-speed rail project could be transformational. particularly for the East Midlands’ economy which he claimed could enjoy a “golden decade of growth and economic prosperity”.
His comments come as the regional lobbying group meets in Birmingham today for its annual conference.
Construction on phase one of HS2 between Birmingham and London is well under way while later phases will connect Birmingham with Crewe, Manchester and the East Midlands.
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A brand new dedicated HS2 station was scheduled to be built in Toton, west of Nottingham near the M1, and the high-speed line was set to run to Leeds but the Government cancelled these parts of the project in 2021.
However, plans for a new station in Toton to connect with existing conventional tracks could still go ahead.
Sir John said: “We are one of HS2’s firmest supporters and backers. We stand foursquare behind the project and do so proudly. But HS2 isn’t some project to be debated and discussed, it’s a real project delivering real benefits to communities throughout the Midlands.
“Long before HS2 trains start rolling into the West Midlands, Britain’s biggest infrastructure project is delivering for the region. I back it because over 6,800 people are now employed in HS2’s construction in the West Midlands, with thousands more jobs supported through the wider supply chain.
“I back it because 540 people who were out of work in the West Midlands have been helped into jobs on HS2. I back it because over 340 apprentices from the region have started new roles on HS2 and investment in T-Levels recently tripled.
“Everyone knows that Goldman Sachs moved to Birmingham, in part I’m sure, due to their knowledge that HS2 is coming here – and it will be the same for other global firms in the years ahead.”
The conference will discuss Midlands Connect’s strategic transport plan for the region which was revised last year to take into account the social and economic impact of Covid-19 and navigating the business world following the exit from the EU.
It will explore what progress has been made on that plan and other projects the body will be prioritising for the remainder of the year as well as hearing from transport under secretary Richard Holden MP.
In his remarks, Mr Peace said he would like to see the economic benefits being enjoyed by the West Midlands translate across the region because the East Midlands had the lowest transport spend per head of any UK region.
“We need to lift that up. We need to lift our gaze, lift our aspirations and go for growth,” he added.
“The Integrated Rail Plan was released over a year ago now and Midlands Connect, councils and other bodies stand ready and eager to deliver the proposals.
“But we have heard a lot of noise in the media recently about HS2 so let me make Midlands Connect’s position crystal clear. Don’t dither, don’t delay, we have to deliver HS2 all the way. That connection would give the East Midlands what we see in the West – a golden decade of growth and economic prosperity.”
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