Which way for High Speed route to Birmingham?

Network Rail's publication of it's New Line Programme on the 27th August with plans for a new high speed line to meet the future demands for additional rail capacity have added to the plethora of proposals and discussion over high speed routes and how they will serve Birmingham and the Greater Birmingham area (HS2 twice over for Birmingham, High Speeding it out of Heathrow runway furore, High Speeding, Heathrow Terminal 6 - Birmingham International?, High Speed gathering support).

The Network Rail proposal is for a £34bn line from Scotland to London by 2030 with the connection between London and Birmingham to be completed by 2020. The Network Rail plans outlined in it's Strategic business case follow the government's establishment of companies to investigate the routes, High Speeding, the first of which is due to report at the end of 2009 on routes between the West Midlands, Heathrow and London.

The Network Rail plans have opened up the debate on the role of Birmingham International Airport however with the question of the route stopping or bypassing the aiport. With the approved runway extension, BIA runway approval starts ambitious growth plans, a station at the airport on any high speed route would offer an alternative airport route for Londoners and further increase the airport as an alternative hub, Heathrow Terminal 6 - Birmingham International.

Pauk Kehoe, chief executive of Birmingham International Airport has argued that the Network Rail route would largely benefit the north of England and Manchester while ignoring the West Midlands and that it would be foolish not to stop at the airport.

“We believe in an integrated transport system, and high-speed rail must serve not just Birmingham Airport and the National Exhibition Centre, but provide an out of city station for those in the rest of the region that do not live in city centres.http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-transport-news/2009/08/31/high-speed-trains-may-still-stop-at-birmingham-airport-and-nec-insists-government-expert-65233-24568757/

Sir David Rowlands, chairman of the High Speed Two project, the man charged by the government with examining the High Speed Route responded to Kehoe's comments by saying that the High Speed Company examining the route was continuing to look closely at the possibility of a 200mph service serving a parkway station close to Birmingham International as well as stopping in Birmingham city centre en-route to Manchester and the North-west.

Network Rail's intervention into the discussion on planned routes adds to the plethora of differing views with Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, warning a lack of capacity at New Street and the cost of building an alternative station for high speed services may mean that the new trains do not come into the centre of Birmingham while Sir David Rowlands suggests this is unfeasible considering the flows of people between central London to central Birmingham.

One thing seems certain that we must wait for the outcome of the High Speed Two company report at the end of 2009 on the proposed route but that ignoring the Greater Birmingham area is not possible.


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