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'Bright future for region coming down the line' Politicians and bosses hail decision.

Byline: Tamlyn Jones Business Correspondent

WEST Midlands business leaders and politicians this week gave their backing to the long-awaited decision to go ahead with HS2 after 10 years of uncertainty.

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward said the Midlands had been ignored for too long and HS2 could help rebalance the economy north of London. Councillor Ward, who is also West Midlands Combined Authority transport chief, said: "The people of the Midlands and the North have been neglected for far too long and HS2 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebalance the UK economy.

"This is not about fast trains - it's about jobs, skills and opportunities.

"HS2 will free up capacity on the rest of the rail network, improving connectivity within and, importantly, between our cities. It will also shift more freight on to rail - an important step towards zero carbon emissions.

"We will only truly see the full benefits of HS2 when Birmingham and the Midlands are at the very heart of a national network."

Other leading voices gave their support to the project and called for work to start in earnest as soon as possible.

Neil Rami, chief executive of the West Midlands Growth Company, said: "Even during its earliest stages of development, HS2 has helped to reinforce the West Midlands' reputation as a globally competitive destination for business and investment.

"Its scale and ambition has helped the region to attract a range of companies here. With HS2 expected to boost the West Midlands economy by PS14 billion, it will change our business environment for the better." Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: "It was apparent on a local level throughout the Oakervee Review (into the feasibility of HS2) there was a spirit of collaboration between stakeholders across the political spectrum to ensure we spoke with one voice to make the case for HS2.

"The short-term objective around phase one is clear - get those spades in the ground and start digging for victory on a project that will rebalance the UK economy.

"This will also restore investor confidence across Greater Birmingham and exhilarate the region as we enter an uncertain economic period when we take our first tentative steps outside the European Union."

Midlands Connect chairman Sir John Peace said: "HS2 is already a catalyst for huge regeneration in Birmingham city centre - now, we can get on with bringing the same transformation to the areas around the other Midlands' HS2-connect stations.

"We must make sure the benefits of HS2 are maximised through proper integration with regional transport strategies like our Midlands Engine Rail proposals, using the capacity released by HS2 to introduce 700 additional rail services every day, vastly improving journeys for millions of commuters who use the existing network.

"A further review of HS2 phase 2b is an opportunity to make sure HS2 is properly integrated with Midlands Engine Rail and that other rail improvements are brought forward before the HS2 East Midlands hub station at Toton is operational."

West Midlands mayor Andy Street said: "HS2 was always going to be a gamechanger for the region, particularly because of the impact it is going to have both on employment and our local transport network.

"Not only will HS2 create tens of thousands of jobs for local people, it is also going to free up vital capacity on our local rail network, meaning we can run more reliable and frequent local commuter services.

"It has been a hard-fought campaign but ultimately I always believed the economic case would win through and that the Government would give HS2 the goahead."

Birmingham Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell said: "This is wonderful news for the West Midlands, Birmingham and the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield.

"In many ways it will underwrite our future economic success, and allow the West Midlands to realise its full potential."

But many people still oppose the planned rail line.

While most politicians in the region support HS2, opponents include Warley MP John Spellar.

He said: "Prime Minister Johnson is clearly too scared to be bold and take on his civil servants. They have already wasted PS8 billion of taxpayers' money without any track being laid - and are about to waste an extra PS100 billion.

"My constituents hardly benefit from this decision. Investment is sorely needed in new rolling stock, extra carriages and improved signalling on existing regional train routes - especially in and around the Black Country and West Midlands."

With HS2 expected to boost THEWEST Midlands economy by PS14 billion, it will change our business environment for the better.Neil Rami, West Midlands Growth Company

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An artist's impression of the proposed HS2 Curzon Street Station in Birmingham city centre
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Author:Tamlyn Jones Business Correspondent
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 13, 2020
Words:779
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