The West Midlands region has no choice but to embrace HS2 if it is to tackle its imminent rail capacity problems, Network Rail has warned.

David Golding, principal strategic planner at Network Rail, told the Built Environment Networking event on ‘Birmingham’s Transport Development Plans 2014’ at Villa Park that the West Coast Mainline is “approaching capacity”.

“The prospect of an alternative to HS2 doesn’t bear thinking about in terms of the amount of disruption we would have on the West Coast Mainline,” Golding said.

“Effectively the West Coast Mainline is approaching capacity. It doesn’t have capacity for growth, so we need HS2 to cope with growth for the future.

“There’s no sensible alternative in terms of upgrading the West Coast Mainline. There’s no one in the industry with the appetite for rebuilding the West Coast Mainline again, 15-20 years after we last did it. I’m not sure the economies of West Midlands or North-west would cope with that either.”

Golding said HS2 was a “game changer” for Network Rail, and the client has already begun planning how to use capacity that would be freed up on the West Coast Mainline by HS2.

Jamie Kerr, head of regeneration company development at HS2 Ltd, said the UK “has the skills and technology to make [HS2] a huge success and one of the best railway lines in the world”.

Local infrastructure clients Centro and Birmingham Airport said they had begun planning how to integrate their infrastructure assets into HS2.

Centro is planning £2bn of connectivity improvements in the West Midlands it says will “double” the economic benefits of HS2, from 22,000 to 50,000 jobs and £2bn to £4bn gross value added to the region’s economy.

The infrastructure clients also discussed the Midlands Connect project, which brings together infrastructure clients from across the West and East Midlands to plan long term infrastructure schemes from 2019 onwards.

Michelle Thurgood, transport specialist at Birmingham Airport, said the initiative would provide “evidence-based” support for future bids for infrastructure funding.

The four clients also discussed their development plans in more detail –

BIRMINGHAM AIRPORT

Birmingham Airport serves over 9 million passengers per annum, flying direct to 159 international destinations and to over 400 via connections. It employs 600 people directly and supports 6,500 jobs directly connected to the airport. This summer the airport launched new long-haul routes – including to China – thanks to the completion of a 400m extension of its runway earlier in the year.

Opportunities

  • Birmingham Airport foresees passenger numbers will significantly increase, particularly over the long term once the first phase of HS2 opens in 2026. The airport’s existing single runway could support a “quadrupling” of passenger numbers up to 36 million “with just a few tweaks to existing infrastructure,” according to Thurgood. A second runway would allow 70 million passengers per annum.
  • This autumn the airport will launch a new Surface Access Strategy, detailing planned improvements to connecting road and rail infrastructure. Turgood said: “The primary goal of this is to make Birmingham Airport the most accessible airport in the UK, by providing integrated, accessible multi-modal transport options for all.”
  • Local councils and the airport have masterplanned a huge multi-use regeneration scheme taking in the airport, the planned HS2 station, the NEC arena and surrounding areas including Solihull, with the potential to create 30,000 extra jobs. The scheme, dubbed UK Central, is ten times larger than Manchester’s planned Airport City project.

 

Strategy

Thurgood said: “Our strategy is to get planes, get passengers and add shareholder value, thus generating an environment where we fill our runway and create up to 243,000 jobs across the region.”

CENTRO

Centro is responsible for delivery of public transport in the West Midlands. It represents the seven Metropolitan District Councils of the West Midlands: Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. Major schemes currently under-construction include the extension of the metro system into Birmingham city centre, with additional stops at Grand Central, Snow Hill, Bull Street and Corporation Street.

Opportunities

  • A further extension to the metro system is planned to Centenary Square, with stops planned for the Town Hall and Centenary Square. Opening is envisaged by 2018. Longer term, a metro extension is planned to the proposed HS2 station at Curzon Street.
  • Centro’s planned ‘One Station’ scheme – which has been awarded funding by central government – will improve the integration of Birmingham’s New Street and Moor Street stations.
  • Centro has been awarded £357m of Growth Deal funds to deliver infrastructure improvements. These improvements will include the upgrade of Snow Hill station, reliability improvements, an interchange for Birmingham university, a Hagley Road SPRINT service, connectivity upgrades for Longbridge, metro extensions, including to Edgbaston and a A45 rapid transit between the city and the airport.
  • Centro is pulling together £2bn of planned local infrastructure improvements to get the West Midlands region ready for HS2, known as the West Midlands HS2 Local Connectivity Package. This will include works to integrate Curzon Street station with Birmingham city centre and nearby rail stations and new metro, rail and bus links and hubs.

Strategy

Maria-Pilar Machancoses, economic development manager at Centro, said the client is working more closely with public sector agencies and other bodies, including through Midlands Connect, to build support for intrastructure schemes. “We’ve completely changed our approach. The only way we are going to make progress with government is to work in tandem with the city and agencies. In the past two years what has become clear is you can make much more progress when you work with businesses and planning authorities.” Centro is driving for three key things in its input into the HS2 Curzon Street station masterplan, according to Machancoses. Firstly they are driving for “a world-class 21st century landmark building that further strengthens a positive image for Birmingham and its economic role”. Secondly, “a station fully integrated into the urban fabric of the city centre and opens up accessibility between the city centre Core, Eastside and Digbeth.” And finally, “high quality and efficient walking, cycling and public transport connections continue into and throughout the city centre.”

HS2

Birmingham will be at the heart of the government’s planned HS2 network. Two stations will be built as part of the first phase, Birmingham Interchange, connecting the network to the airport, and Birmingham Curzon Street in the city centre. HS2 phase two will see the network branch out in two different directions north of Birmingham, to Manchester in the west and Leeds in the east.

Opportunities

  • Planning, development and construction of the 140 mile first phase and its two Birmingham stations at Curzon Street and Interchange. HS2’s construction headquarters will be based in Birmingham.
  • HS2 Ltd and London and Continental Railways (LCR) – the organisation behind construction of HS1 and the redevelopment of King’s Cross St Pancras – are planning to launch a joint regeneration and development company to help co-ordinate regeneration work along the HS2 route. Kerr is leading HS2 Ltd’s work in this area. He believes HS2 can create 14,000 jobs around Curzon Street and 10,000 jobs at Interchange. “There’s a huge opportunity for regeneration in Birmingham and we firmly recognise that,” Kerr said.

Strategy

HS2 Ltd and LCR are currently working on a business case for the regeneration body, to be submitted to central government by the autumn. The proposed regeneration body would offer expertise and capacity on commercial and investment opportunities, ensure integration of HS2 stations into surrounding areas and wider transport network and identify sources of investment for HS2-related schemes.

NETWORK RAIL

Network Rail covers the West Midlands region within its London North Western route, which links the capital through to Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool and beyond to Scotland. Network Rail has just entered a new five-year control period (control period five) running from 2014 to 2019, meaning all major projects over that time period across the UK, including in the West Midlands, have already been committed. The revamp of Birmingham New Street, which was allocated under control period four, is still ongoing.

Opportunities

  • Most funding for control period five has been allocated to the North-west, specifically the ‘Northern Hub’ package of improvements. In the West Midlands one of the few projects to be allocated funding is the electrification of the line between Walsall and Rugeley, where work is underway and will be complete in 2018.

Strategy

Network Rail is currently forecasting what rail upgrades it will need up until 2043, to help inform its choices for schemes for control period six between 2019 and 2024. This process is in its infancy, but Golding said period six improvements are likely to include further electrification of the West Midlands and Chiltern route. Network Rail is also planning how to adapt to HS2, particularly in terms of how to make use of capacity released on the West Coast Mainline.