Amid the hype surrounding High Speed 2 (HS2), UK regional client bodies are also enthusiastic, but with a few conditions attached.
Representatives from Transport for West Midlands, Transport for the North and England’s Economic Heartland, which covers Oxfordshire to Cambridgeshire, were questioned on the second day of New Civil Engineer’s 2017 UK Transport conference this morning.
Questions at the session included devolution, long term strategies and Brexit – but HS2 was top of the agenda for most in attendance.
“It’s [HS2] hugely important to us,” Transport for West Midlands managing director Laura Shoaf said. “For a number of reasons – we’re already really close to London, but I think it will put us at 36 to 38 minutes [from London], so that makes us Zone 4.
Shoaf said two new HS2 stations – Birmingham Curzon Street and Birmingham Interchange – were a key part of its “2026 vision” but must link in with airports, existing railway lines, motorways, major employers and forthcoming metro rail connections. “There is huge regeneration opportunities that the two stations in our region will bring.”
Transport for the North chief executive David Brown said north-south connectivity through HS2 was rightly a top priority but should be considered as part of a wider network which includes east-west links. “Putting the lintel across the top of the [HS2] “Y”, effectively linking Liverpool with Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds will address the connectivity issue in the north. But also adds massively to HS2,” Brown said.
“It’s about utilising this infrastructure they’re going to build, for the best purpose, and getting a much better value for cost.”
England’s Economic Heartland (EEH) programme director Martin Tugwell said delivery of East-West Rail – to connect East Anglia with Central, Southern and Western England – should take the limelight alongside HS2.
“Because if you look at what they are proposing in terms of construction, the only way they can construct the southern part of HS2 is to create East-West Rail, because there is no other way to get the required 19 trains a day of material to that area. Which is why, in last years’ autumn statement, there was over £100M of investment to make sure East West Rail is ready before HS2 comes on stream,” Tugwell said.
He added that local authorities had spent large amounts of time and money on preparing for East-West ahead of any statutory processes.