More than 80 people, including Ministers, MPs, peers and prominent business figures, attending the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Parliamentary Reception on Wednesday heard how the high speed rail line offers a unique opportunity to increase prosperity and job opportunities for people right across the region.
Speakers at the reception, titled ‘HS2 at the Heart of West Midlands Connectivity’, included Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and WMCA chair Cllr Bob Sleigh, who explained how the authority was determined to maximise the benefits offered by HS2.
The WMCA’s ‘HS2 Growth Strategy’ features a range of infrastructure projects and investment that builds on the rail line’s potential for growth and includes Metro tram extensions and other transport schemes to connect more than 2 million West Midlands people to HS2 as well as the creation of 2,000 HS2-related apprenticeships.
Grayling said: "HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project and the Government is seizing the opportunity it offers to build a transport network fit for the 21st century.
"The West Midlands will be key beneficiaries of HS2, which they are using as a springboard for regeneration and economic growth."
The WMCA believes HS2 is key to the Government’s vision of a Midlands Engine and vital for a healthier and wealthier West Midlands
Cllr Sleigh said: "HS2 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fire up the Midlands Engine and drive our regional economy, improving people’s job prospects, particularly those of younger people, in the process.
"That’s why our HS2 growth strategy sets out to secure the maximum benefits possible and in doing so help build a prosperous West Midlands that can play a pivotal role in creating a rebalanced and successful post-Brexit UK economy."
The reception heard how the authority’s ‘HS2 Growth Strategy’ seeks to take advantage of the West Midlands’ position at the heart of the UK’s high speed rail network, giving it connectivity to other major cities and better and faster links to markets both at home and overseas.
Phase 1 of the high speed rail line between the West Midlands and London is due for completion in 2026 with Phase 2, going north from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, scheduled to open in 2033.
The West Midlands is, however, already seeing the benefits of Europe’s biggest infrastructure project.
HS2 Ltd recently established its headquarters in Birmingham city centre, employing 1,300 people and the National College for High Speed Rail is due to open in the city next year.
Leading companies including Jacobs Engineering and property consultants Carter Jonas have already relocated to the region, with HSBC’s retail bank head office set to open in 2018, all citing HS2 as a principal reason for the moves.