I rise to speak in support of this Bill. It is no secret that I support the Government on the issue of high-speed rail, because I believe it will be good for Redditch, good for the west midlands and good for Britain as a whole. HS2 will transform journey times and connectivity between Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and London. However, the fact that HS2 is also about capacity as well as speed is sometimes lost in the argument. In the past 20 years, the number of journeys made on Britain’s rail network has doubled and that has put pressure on all our existing major networks, and on the west coast main line in particular.
Capacity on the west coast main line will be nearly full by the early 2020s and, as a regular traveller on that line, I know how essential the service is for many commuters. High-speed rail will increase capacity across existing lines so that local commuter trains can run more frequently and with enough seats for passengers, allowing the wider west midlands area to fulfil its economic potential. Put simply, more track means more trains and therefore more space for commuters, long-distance travellers and freight.
The ever-increasing gap between infrastructure spending in the south and the rest of the country is widening the economic divide. In 2011-12, 45% of total public expenditure on transport in England was in London, with only 13% going to the midlands. Public sector spending on transport per head in the west midlands is among the lowest in England. Sixty-six of the top 100 FTSE companies are located in London and the south-east, with just four in the west midlands, one of which is GKN in my own constituency.
HS2 is also about rebalancing our economy. We talk about that a lot in this House, but we must prove that we are serious about it and enable other regions to grow alongside London and the south. When HS1 was under construction, it was predicted that it would create £500 million of investment, but an independent report later put the value of HS1 at almost 40 times that estimate. What happened was the regeneration effect, as
HS1 directly helped to deliver more than 10,000 homes and almost 100,000 new jobs. There is no reason why HS2 cannot deliver the same results for the north and the midlands.
Investment in HS2 will deliver widespread connectivity improvements, grow markets and increase opportunities to trade. The west midlands has identified regional and local connectivity as an important feature of its growth strategies, with a need to better link up labour to jobs and skills; and businesses to other businesses and markets. Attracting greater investment in transport will be a critical factor for the continued success of our region. The introduction of HS2 can be the catalyst for connectivity and growth.
It is estimated that HS2 will generate between £214 million and £375 million every year in my own Worcestershire economy. The London to Birmingham route alone is expected to boost Birmingham’s economy by £1.2 billion, and towns and cities in surrounding counties by £2.5 billion. At this point, I would like to put in a plug for the apprentice academy to come to Birmingham when the decision is finally made.
In addition, the initial phase of HS2 could support the creation of 8,000 jobs surrounding the proposed HS2 stations in the west midlands area, as well as leading to wider growth in the region, including in towns in Worcestershire such as those in my constituency.
HS2 could also affect our wider transport capabilities, particularly our airports. I am a big champion of Birmingham international airport which is near my constituency. To be able to access it from Euston in just over 30 minutes will make a huge difference to the people of north London as well as to the midlands economy. It will mean a choice between Birmingham, Gatwick and Heathrow. Those Members who have travelled from Birmingham international airport know how excellent it is, and those who have not should try it, and they will not regret it. I still support the idea that HS2 could be a solution to runway capacity problems in the south, although admittedly the initial recommendations of Sir Howard Davies have made that look somewhat unlikely, but that is a point for another day.
The Bill will bring great benefit to my constituents and our region as well as to our wider economy, and that is why I will be supporting it tonight.