West Midlands transport authority Centro was this week poised to seek changes to the High Speed 2 (HS2) hybrid bill to include provisions for a major rail interchange in Birmingham.
Centro supports HS2, but said it was seeking “a number of amendments” to the parliamentary bill. These include better provision for “giving passengers seamless interchange” between the proposed Birmingham Curzon station and the existing Moor Street station.
Centro runs public transport services across seven West Midlands local authorities.
The move comes less than a month after NCE revealed that discussions were underway among senior project team members to see whether HS2’s Birmingham connectivity should be reviewed.
Under existing plans, Birmingham will get two HS2 stations. One is the Birmingham Interchange station close to the National Exhibition Centre and airport. The other is a city centre station at Curzon Street served by a tunnelled spur, off of the main line.
HS2 said it had no plans to drop the station at Curzon Street. “In the bill that has been submitted to Parliament, we have set out a proposal to build a 21st century high speed rail station at Curzon Street that will be a significant catalyst in the regeneration of Eastside Birmingham,” it said in a statement. “We are working closely with Birmingham City Council and Centro to maximise the development opportunities that the new station at Curzon Street will bring and to make sure it properly links to the local transport network.”
Centro’s hybrid bill fears
- It will not deliver an efficient interchange between the new Birmingham Curzon station and the existing Moor Street station
- It will affect plans to extend the Midland Metro in Eastside
- It will affect the movement of traffic and pedestrians as a result of the closure of Park Street and the re-direction of traffic onto Moor Street Queensway
- The closure of Saltley Viaduct for 18 months will affect traffic
- Lack of integration of the existing Birmingham International/NEC station with the proposed HS2 Interchange station
- Unsuitable bus and coach facilities at the Interchange station
But NCE understands that discussions about whether a metro railway would better connect the city centre to HS2 and provide better connectivity to the existing rail network are underway.
The metro could replace the Curzon Street HS2 station and instead connect HS2 to the airport and to Curzon Street and New Street stations, as well other parts of the West Midlands such as Wolverhampton. Current plans involve connecting the airport to Birmingham Interchange via a people mover.
A metro along New Canal Street connecting Curzon Street with New Street and Snow Hill stations and possibly to the airport is supported by a recent report produced by consultant Peter Brett Associates for business and community stakeholders.
Its Unlocking the Potential report states: “A Metro route along New Canal Street serving both the HS2 Curzon Street station and the proposed regeneration and growth in Eastside and Digbeth communities is required, with an extension eastward of the new Metro line linking New Street and Snow Hill station with the proposed HS2 Curzon Street Station and the learning quarter at Eastside, and a possible extension to the airport.”
Some of the concerns regarding Curzon Street are echoed by Centro in its objections to the bill. It suggests that too little consideration has been given to the scheme’s integration with the transport network around Birmingham.
It says the bill fails to provide for an “efficient interchange facility” between Curzon Street and Moor Street stations. And the people mover plan at Birmingham Interchange also fails to integrate different transport modes.
Other concerns have been raised about this station - Birmingham Airport is in the lobbying for the Interchange station name to be changed to Birmingham Airport station, because, it asserts, no other station adjacent to a major airport in the UK omits the word airport from its name. But senior project members are concerned that few HS2 passengers will use the people mover to get from the station to the airport, leading them to question the arrangement of the stations around the city.
Centro is also calling for the government to commit to having a fully segregated tunnel linking HS1 to HS2 in north London. This would enable direct services from Birmingham to Europe without the need for passengers to change between Euston and St Pancras stations. Last month, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin scrapped from the bill a £700M link between the high speed services on the advice of new HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins who deemed it “sub-optimal” (NCE 20 March).
Wolverhampton City Council leader Roger Lawrence said McLoughlin’s decision would remove the immediate prospect of direct high speed rail services from the West Midlands to Paris, Brussels and beyond for the foreseeable future.
West Midlands councillors were due to be asked on Monday to give the go ahead for Centro to lodge a formal appeal against the Bill in its current format. The hybrid bill is due to receive its second reading in Parliament in April.