WE now know that high speed rail is coming to Birmingham, and it will stop on the way at Birmingham International. Is it a good thing and what will it mean for Solihull?
Every major infrastructure project has its upside and its downside. We need to assess which outweighs the other.
The Conservatives refused to even look at the HS2 Report, and say they are bringing forward a different plan, which includes a link from Heathrow Airport.
Many local people fear that BIA will become the third runway for Heathrow, and a direct rail link would increase this prospect and bring back the spectre of a second runway at BIA.
On this basis I would oppose the measure.
Generally, high speed rail will mean jobs and prosperity for our region. The fact that it stops at Birmingham International as well as Birmingham itself will have enormous benefits in securing our area as a magnet for inward development and the hub of a national, European and global economic network.
The airport and the NEC will get a huge boost as Birmingham becomes a great alternative destination for exhibitions, business travellers and tourists. The benefits they enjoy will permeate through to the whole Midlands region.
As the line extends north, splitting and going up the west and east parts of the country to Glasgow and Edinburgh, it will mean the Regions can compete with the capital, making the whole country accessible.
So what are the pitfalls? Environment has to be the major one. A railway line going through the Chilterns will cost, in terms of the carbon cost of its build and to the countryside.
What of the people living close to the proposed route? Their voices must be heard. It’s very important that there is proper and meaningful consultation on the route, not the sham of consultation where the bureaucrats’ minds are already made up which we have seen in the past.
On balance, I would say High Speed Rail has to come, and that it will bring economic and social benefits. Other European countries are many years ahead and already enjoy the fruits of high speed rail. It’s high time we in Great Britain got on with it.