HS2 must be integrated with Midlands Engine Rail proposals; phase 2b must not short change the East Midlands with downgraded lines and must be constructed from the West Midlands to East Midlands first, and Midlands Connect and partners must have a role in any further review of HS2 Phase Two.
Responding to news that the government is set to give the go-ahead to HS2, but with a review of Phase 2b of the project through the East Midlands, Midlands Connect Chairman Sir John Peace said:
HS2 is the only shovel ready infrastructure project that can future-proof our rail network, keep rail travel affordable and bring our country together in an environmentally-sustainable way. We must now get on delivering this once-in-a-century upgrade of our rail network to level up the economy and unleash the potential of the Midlands and the North.
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-connected stations: Interchange near Solihull, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, the East Midlands HS2 Hub station at Toton and Chesterfield.
We must now make sure that the benefits of HS2 are maximised through proper integration with regional transport strategies like our Midlands Engine Rail (MER) 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.
The Government has already committed to deliver MER’s flagship project, Midlands Rail Hub; we must now work together to confirm support for the whole MER programme, a £3.5 billion investment fully integrated with HS2, to create a rail network fit for the next century.
A further review of HS2 Phase 2b is an opportunity to make sure that 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.
It is important, however, that the Phase 2b hybrid Bill receives Royal Assent in this Parliament to provide certainty to investors, businesses and local communities. A review must also commit to constructing Phase 2b from the West Midlands to the East Midlands first, and must not consider downgrading lines north of Birmingham to cut costs. The Midlands must not be short-changed with a two-tier HS2 network.
Midlands Connect will continue to work closely with HS2 Ltd, the Department for Transport, Network Rail and local authorities to develop a plan that maximises the benefits of HS2, including:
- Direct HS2 connections from Nottingham-Birmingham and Leicester-Leeds city centres, via Toton
- Investment in the East Midlands Development Corporation and in local connectivity improvements around Toton over the next 10 years to prepare the way for HS2 and bring early benefits for local people
- Improved HS2 connectivity for Chesterfield and the early delivery of the planned HS2 Infrastructure Maintenance Depot at Staveley
The Midlands has a golden opportunity to deliver the most of the huge benefits HS2 will bring to our communities. It is time to come together to deliver the infrastructure revolution the region desperately needs.