by Phil Marsh

Birmingham to become High Speed 2 HQ

Published: 22nd July 2014

Back to the future as Government makes promise to bring jobs and economic growth boost for Midlands

The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, HS2 Chairman David Higgins and Birmingham Council Leader Sir Albert Bore have launched Birmingham’s Urban Regeneration Company.

This will house the HS2 Construction HQ providing huge employment opportunities for the area and bring significant regeneration of Birmingham’s city centre to the east of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) just north of Proof House.

But, it is a curious choice of words given that Birmingham New Street is being completely rebuilt by Network Rail and that Birmingham shopping centre has already been revitalised in recent years. So regeneration has been well underway for years now!

Back to the future?

The part of Birmingham the dignitaries are referring to is the area to the east of the WCML opposite the Birmingham Dogs Home which overlooks the original London to Birmingham Railway (LBR) line opened in 1837.

This line was called by many “the foundation stone of the greatest UK railway route” and used Euston in London and Curzon Street in Birmingham as its termini. Curzon Street did not have a long life as a passenger station as New Street opened in 1852 and in LMS days was used as a Goods Depot and in the latter years of British Rail, was used as a parcels and freight depot, and then a carpark.

Today, it remains a barren undeveloped brownfield area, but not for much longer. In 1837 it was claimed that the station “which for convenience and admirable arrangement is without a parallel” by the LBR. The regeneration will be repeating what happened 200 years ago when a hotel was built as part of the station along with refreshment rooms. The roof covered a space of 217 feet by 113 feet and weighed 326 tons. The planned design for HS2 will replicate these grand origins.

Euston and its famous arch was demolished half a century ago as was most of Curzon Street apart from the main part of the building which has lingered in the shade of Moore Street station for decades. Each of the stones supporting the four columns at Curzon Street weighed 18 tons and cost £26,000.

And for those against…..

The anti-HS2 people have suggested that Curzon Street is too far away from Birmingham New Street to be any use to the city for connectivity. Those against HS2 do not seem to understand that the project is not about saving either 10 minutes between London and Birmingham or connecting HS2 with New Street.

Its all about connections (transport and economic)

The long distance connections will be via trains from Curzon Street to HS2 and the north and that removing the express trains from the WCML will allow more passengers to get seats from places like Birmingham International, Coventry and Rugby.

For HS2 passengers who need local trains to or from New Street, the Midland Metro is being extended to Curzon St station already.

Railway regeneration plans

The regeneration company will lead the redevelopment around Curzon Street which will see a new lease of life as the HS2 Birmingham station. The expectation is that the project will create 14,000 jobs boosting the local economy by as much as £1.3 billion.

The HS2 Construction HQ will create 1,500 jobs assisted by £30m of funding by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership to kick-start development activity. This followed £130million from the Local Growth Fund for HS2 related projects.

The Birmingham Curzon Urban Regeneration Company as it will be known, will drive the development of 140 hectares of land around Curzon Street creating 600,000 square metres of new employment floorspace and 2,000 homes. In essence, it will be following the Kings Cross lands development which has transformed that area.

The HS2 HQ could be partially open by next year and will eventually house up to 1,500 HS2 Ltd employees. These will be engineers and designers responsible for detailed track construction plans, as well as for stations and signalling and support staff.

They said:

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

“HS2 is a vital part of our long-term economic plan. By locating the new HS2 engineering HQ in Birmingham we are bringing skilled job opportunities into the area, spreading HS2’s benefits beyond those using the new rail line.

HS2 Chairman, David Higgins said:

"The lasting impact of HS2 will, in the end, be determined by how successfully local authorities and regions use it as a catalyst to transform and develop not just their economies, but also the look and feel of the areas it touches. The Birmingham Curzon Urban Regeneration Company will, therefore, be hugely important both for Birmingham and the rest of the West Midlands, and also as an example to the rest of the cities along the route”.

Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham Council said:

“Since the industrial revolution, Birmingham has been a national capital for engineering, so it is only natural that the HS2 Construction HQ be based in Birmingham.

“HS2 is an important step in rebalancing the country’s economy, supporting growth in the regions and encouraging more inward investment into the City”.

Andy Street, Chairman of the GBSLEP said: “Greater Birmingham is helping lead Britain’s economic recovery, showing the rest of the country the road ahead in areas such as manufacturing, exports and digital business. But we have even more ambitious plans for the future, and HS2 is integral to that. That’s why I’m delighted to announce that the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP will be investing £30 million to unleash and unlock the potential of Birmingham Curzon”.

Waheed Nazir, Director of Planning and Regeneration at Birmingham City Council said: “The announcements today show that the city is driving forward with its regeneration agenda. The decision to locate the HS2 construction HQ in Birmingham demonstrates the strength of the city centre as a prime office location.”

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