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HS2 and West Midlands regeneration

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'HS2 or What' discussion panellists, Birmingham, 8 Nov 2013

‘HS2 or What’ discussion panellists, Birmingham, 8 Nov 2013: (l/r) Alan Wenban-Smith, Peter Hall, Gisela Stuart, David Bailey, Roger Lawrence

On 8 November 2013, the Barber Institute was the venue for ‘HS2 or What?: Transport Choices and West Midlands Regeneration’, a discussion organised by the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Advanced Studies, the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS), The Lunar Society, and Futures Network West Midlands.

HS2 has been presented purely as a transport proposal, resulting in a discourse that is polarised between NIMBYism and boosterism. This debate aims to shift the focus away from transport and city development to regional regeneration which is now the declared purpose of the HS2 project.

The distinguished geographer and planner, Professor Sir Peter Hall, will deliver a keynote address drawing on his long engagement with transport in urban development. Sir Peter will set some specific challenges for the West Midlands for a regional panel of interests and experts, chaired by Gisela Stuart MP Birmingham Edgbaston, to respond before a wider discussion with the audience.

The panel, introduced by CURS’ Dr Mike Beazley, also included David Bailey (professor of industrial strategy at Aston Business School), independent consultant Alan Wenban-Smith, and Wolverhampton council leader Roger Lawrence. About 160 people registered to attend, including former Birmingham city council leader Clive Wilkinson and current councillor Stewart Stacey.

Centro were invited to send one of their three hundred-odd staff to be represented on the panel, but no response was received. However, Centro’s Rail Development Manager, Toby Rackliff did attend, as an audience member. He said that Centro had not sent a panellist, because its chief executive was on holiday. So apparently, one person going on holiday nobbled the organisation’s ability to provide one panellist for a debate.

Although the debate was called ‘HS2 or what?’, there wasn’t really much discussion of the potential of alternative investment strategies. One of the problems mentioned by panellists was the poor connectivity to the Black Country towns. Mr Rackliff stated that Centro were requesting a link line to allow HS2 ‘classic compatible’ trains to reach Birmingham New Street, Sandwell, and Wolverhampton.

Of course, the idea of running HS2 trains into New Street makes a mockery of the ‘capacity’ argument touted by HS2 Ltd and Centro itself, because 400-metre HS2 trains would not fit. 200-metre HS2 half-trains would fit, but would have fewer seats than current Pendolinos.

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Written by beleben

February 11, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Posted in HS1, HS2

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