A £3.3 billion vision for HS2 was today revealed that would create 52,000 jobs, extend the Midland Metro line and bring super-fast electric buses to the Black Country.
Called the Midlands Growth Strategy, it has been developed by the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and earmarks £1.6bn for transport projects.
The document, published today, says the schemes would create 52,000 jobs and protect 104,000 jobs in total.
Overall, the plan would see the region delivering an extra £14bn to the UK economy, bosses claim.
But it will only go ahead if the Government is persuaded to put £3.3bn extra into the HS2 project – which is already set to cost at least £50 billion.
Of the projects listed, several have been on the drawing board for several years – including the Dudley metro extension and the i54 link.
Today campaigners reacted with scepticism and said the strategy was simply a way of convincing the public that HS2 was a good idea.
Joe Rukin of Stop HS2 said: “It’s no surprise that HS2 needs to go cap-in-hand to the government to get more money to make this project actually bring benefits.
“We have long said the business case for the line does not exist and the people of the West Midlands will not be fooled by the repackaging of other transport projects that they already need.”
However, Andy Street, chairman of the GBSLEP, insisted: “This is a once-in-a generation opportunity to do something really special.
“It’s not enough to simply lay tracks and build stations, we must take this chance to create a legacy for the region in terms of regeneration, jobs, skills, economic development and connectivity.”
As part of the proposal, £600m would be spent around the new Curzon Street station in Birmingham and a further £672m at the proposed Interchange Station near Birmingham Airport where tens of thousands of new homes would be built as part of a ‘garden city’ – a self-contained community surrounded by green belt and containing lots of open space.
Around £366m would also go to support businesses to make the most of the new rail link.
A new HS2 Skills College, with more than 2,000 apprentices, is due to be open in central Birmingham by 2017.
HS2 will cost £50bn and is set to be approved by MPs in 2017, with construction starting between London and Birmingham later that year.
The second part of the line would run from Birmingham and fork to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.
A spur at Lichfield will see hybrid trains able to come off the high-speed line and stop at Stafford.
Forty-five miles of Staffordshire countryside, ancient woodlands and idyllic villages will be affected by the line.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “It is absolutely fantastic to see people in the Midlands gearing up to take full advantage of HS2 and the jobs, skills and growth it will bring. This strategy illustrates how HS2 can re-balance our country’s economy and why it is such a vital part of our long-term economic plan.
“The government is already working with partners in the Midlands, considering the plans in detail and how they can be turned into action.”