By Ian Dipple Friday 31 January 2014 Updated: 31/01 10:02
MORE job opportunities for residents, more companies to trade with and millions added to Worcestershire’s economy are just some of the benefits for Redditch from building the high speed rail link HS2.
Andy Taylor, the project’s spokesman for the West Midlands, told a meeting of Redditch business leaders once the link between London and Leeds was completed in 2037 the borough would be just an hour from London and Manchester, opening up opportunities for companies and individuals.
He said by shrinking travelling times it would increase the workforce companies could recruit from by 8.4 per cent, increase the number of businesses to trade with by 20 per cent and boost the county’s economic output year on year by between £214million and £375million.
He acknowledged the concerns of those living where the line would be built, such as those in parts of neighbouring Warwickshire, but said the London to Birmingham phase would only directly affect 330 properties.
“Ultimately the country needs this kind of infrastructure. As small a number of people as possible will be affected but we believe in terms of the number of jobs it creates, the opportunities it creates, making sure young talent, skills and jobs can exist in all cities not just in London and the South East, we do think it is worth it,” he told the Standard.
Mr Taylor was asked to address business leaders at a meeting at the Abbey Hotel by Redditch MP Karen Lumley as part of a new drive to promote the benefits of the £45billion project for the whole country. He said the current rail and road network was overloaded with the Redditch branch line alone experiencing an 86 per cent increase in passenger numbers over the last ten years.
Mr Taylor admitted there were other rail infrastructure upgrades which could be carried out but none would deliver the step change HS2 would.
“What we do is take 18,000 people an hour off the existing railway that releases enourmous capacity for local and regional services and using the current long-distance services for new regional routes,” he said.
“By putting in one element that takes out all the long distance traffic you can support towns and cities across the West Midlands region in one go.”
He also dismissed claims the line would only be affordable for wealthy businessmen and women.
“Each train can take 1,100 people. We are about getting a lot of people buying tickets and getting onto a train not about a few people spending a lot of money.”
Mr Taylor also addressed criticism of the cost of the scheme. Of the £45billion he said £14billion was for contingency and they hoped to reduce the total by building it faster than projected and potentially other companies would want to build and reap the benefits of owning the stations which would also cut costs.
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