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Transport investment crucial for muddled West Midlands: High Speed 2 chairman to face contractors

High Speed 2 chairman Doug Oakervee is to press the case for High Speed 2 and face down any detractors at a major West Midlands event next month.

Many West Midlands developers see the proposed £40bn-plus High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link as a make-or-break windfall – providing thousands of new civil engineering contracts, and helping resolve its deep identity crisis.

While politicians in London and Manchester seem to have clear visions about how transport are crucial to their economic recovery, the region that has Birmingham at its centre is far from sure of the way ahead.

It may become clearer after the Batting for the West Midlands networking dinner at Edgbaston on 16 October. This is just one day after an expected major government announcement on whether HS2 will hit its 2017 target for starting construction. Chairman Doug Oakervee, and a former leading figure in Laing O’Rourke, has chosen the dinner to face his supporters and critics.

With him on the platform will include Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham Airport, which has just announced a £7bn expansion programme, city council leader Sir Albert Bore, and industrialist and former KMPG investment company chairman Steve Hollis. The event is supported by NCE.

Oakervee, who is familiar with criticism of his project and knows the importance of a continued political consensus and promise of funding, will be watched by many of the UK’s leading contractors seeking long-term security in the same fashion as Crossrail. Spread over decade or more, the level of capital spending is not considered by many as excessive.

Oakervee will be pressing his argument that HS2 is all about lifting the West Midlands economy by providing it with a new skills base, and has told NCE that he will be happy to answer questions from dinner guests.

Oakervee will be backed up by Birmingham Airport’s Paul Kehoe, one of many who is aware that the lack of expansion capacity on the West Coast Main Line and the M1/M6 motorways could strangle the region unless new transport corridors are installed.

The scepticism of parts of the region not directly served by either HS2 or the airport will have to be addressed. Many fear that lop-sided economic development will take place unless long-waited improvements are made to local roads, and the funding barrier is quickly lifted on extensions of the Midland Metro light rail system into the western side of the city, the Black Country and out towards Coventry.

NCE will be exclusively reporting for the civil enginering and construction sector on the ‘Batting for the West Midlands’ dinner, which will be hosted by experienced and hard-hitting Central TV news anchorman and local businessman Bob Warman, and networking is promised until the early hours.

To book your table or find out more about Batting for the West Midlands, contact Vicky Binley on 01733 367602, or email vicky@mainspring.co.uk

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