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East Midlands Chamber News

HS2 Eastern Leg essential to national levelling-up agenda and must be completed, say key Midlands voices in new report

Midlands voices from the worlds of politics, business and industry have come together in a new report published today, arguing that the full Y-shaped HS2 network must be completed in full to enable long-promised “levelling up” of the regional and national economy.

Published by High Speed Rail Group (HSRG), HS2 Midlands Voices - which features East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles - makes clear the HS2 Eastern Leg is essential in ensuring the benefits of the project are shared equally across the Midlands.

The East Midlands currently has the lowest transport spend per head of any region in the UK (£245), receiving 49% less than the UK average (£483), and the group argues HS2 will be essential in redressing this balance.

The West Midlands has already benefited significantly from the prospect of HS2’s arrival – Deutsche Bank, HSBC and engineering giant Jacobs are examples of major businesses that have already relocated operations to Birmingham – with HS2 creating more jobs in the West Midlands than any other region outside of London.

This is demonstrative of the transformative impact the scheme has already had, and will have, across the wider Midlands region, says HSRG.

In the midst of another national lockdown, HS2 has an important role ahead in providing the crucial economic kickstart the country will need in its economic recovery from Covid-19 – not just for the hundreds of thousands of jobs it will create or the thousands of apprenticeships and supply chain opportunities it will open up, but as contributor Paul Faulkner states, “a much needed shot in the arm to business confidence” as we emerge from the crisis.

The report includes contributions from Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce CEO Paul Faulkner; Nottinghamshire County Council leader Cllr Kay Cutts MBE; Andrew Lloyd and Kim Quazi, directors of Arup; Solihull Council leader Cllr Ian Courts; Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne; Midlands Connect director Maria Machancoses; LM Joint Venture project director Simon Russell; , Urban Growth Company chairman Nick Brown; East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles; SYSTRA operations director Andy Duggins; Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education deputy director Jenny Illingsworth; and EKFB Joint Venture skills, employment and education manager Paddy Patterson.

HS2 Midlands Voices key points

The report offers analysis and ideas on the impact of high-speed rail in the Midlands across a number of key areas:

1. Levelling up the Midlands regional economy, and boosting connections east to west and north to south

· Paul Faulkner, CEO of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, says that HS2 will be fundamental in “realising the Government’s long-held ambition to move away from a reliance on the South to drive economic growth and bring prosperity to all four corners of the country

· Kay Cutts, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, argues that “we are not in competition with other cities… I do not begrudge the investment in the South, but I do resent not having equivalent investment in the East”

· Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, puts forward that “we have one of the most centralised states in the world and we have very stubborn imbalances in regional growth, regional productivity, regional wealth and we’re not going to be able to rebalance our country until we get in place significant transport infrastructure like HS2”

2. Supporting the national economy in its recovery from COVID-19

· Cllr Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Council, writes that “HS2 unlocks the enormous strengths of our economy, maximising opportunities across the nation, which is why HS2 is central to the UK’s post-Covid-19 recovery”

· Paul Faulkner says HS2 “will provide a much-needed shot in the arm to business confidence and remind the world that the West Midlands is open for business”

· Liam Byrne MP argues for the need to speed up the delivery of HS2 to ensure that the economy has the significant “capital kickstart” it needs to take on job losses resulting from the virus

3. Radically changing the transport offer for passengers with more capacity, connections and faster services

· Cllr Ian Courts identifies the West Midlands as “the strategic heart of the HS2 network”

· Scott Knowles, chief executive of East Midlands Chamber, points to the East Midlands’ chronically low transport spend per head, with nearly “14% of the Eastern Leg’s working population in transport poverty” putting jobs out of reach and prohibiting social mobility

4. Increasing jobs and access to them, along with a skills legacy

· Simon Russell, project director at LM Joint Venture, says “young people looking for a stimulating and hi-tech career that could potentially take them across the world, can achieve all of this in the modern construction sector”

· Andy Duggins, operations director at SYSTRA, points to the role his company has played in hiring, coaching and mentoring high-speed rail apprentices, with the specialist training provided by organisations like the National College for Advanced Transport & Infrastructure “giving businesses like mine a tangible incentive to invest in new talent”

· Paddy Patterson, skills, employment and education manager at EKFB Joint Venture, speaks of the importance of ensuring diversity in recruitment and “looking at how a potentially more diverse talent pool can benefit us…attract[ing] new people to the industry from other sectors”

· Jenny Illingsworth, deputy director at Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, points to the opportunity for the institution, run out of the University of Birmingham, “to collaborate with experts, mull over ideas and to access specialist development, simulation and testing equipment”

5. Environmental benefits including modal shift and air quality

· Liam Byrne MP writes of the importance of HS2 to the West Midlands’ net zero target

· Scott Knowles emphasises the importance of the scheme in modal shift from car to rail, with almost three-quarters of all journeys in the Eastern Leg currently made by car

· Andrew Lloyd and Kim Quazi, directors of Arup, speak to the trailblazing design for the Birmingham Interchange, which has been awarded BREEAM outstanding: “To reach this milestone required, the whole team to buy into sustainability as a mantra that ran through every design decision”

6. Design and construction innovation

· Andrew Lloyd and Kim Quazi describe how the central concept in designing the Birmingham Interchange was “touching the ground lightly” and say that the Interchange “represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to drive innovation and normalise” sustainable practices in the infrastructure industry

· Simon Russell speaks to the innovative construction techniques employed by the LM Joint Venture, using “digital design and offsite manufacturing capability” which has “enabled the team to propose and deliver and innovative solution…that has reduced the time required on site, and more importantly for the public, kept the need for road closures to an absolute minimum and reduced the site traffic during construction”

· Nick Brown, Urban Growth Company chairman, discusses the “innovative blueprint” for infrastructure funding and delivery that has been developed for The UK Central Hub at Solihull

7. HS2 as an essential component in the delivery of Midlands Engine Rail

· Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect, outlines how “Midlands Engine Rail integrates with the spine of HS2 and will improve the journeys of millions of people travelling across the region,” pointing to the organisation’s evidence presented to the NIC as part of the Rail Needs Assessment as making “clear that better integration will deliver benefits sooner, connect more communities, create more jobs and crucially, change more lives for the better”


To read the full HS2 Midlands Voices report, click here.