Defeat as a breakthrough
MPs have “hailed a breakthrough for Birmingham jobs after a Government committee chair called on HS2 to adjust plans for a train maintenance depot in Birmingham so that unwanted land can be freed up for development”, the Birmingham Post reported.
Chairman Robert Syms MP said the HS2 bill select committee were impressed by the submission from AXA and Liam Byrne MP and sympathised with the need to address high unemployment in his constituency, but did not “believe” there is enough evidence justify siting the depot away from Washwood Heath.
[Washwood Heath jobs breakthrough as committee calls on HS2 to adjust plans, Neil Elkes, Birmingham Post, 21 Dec 2014]
[…] Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne and his colleagues have long argued that the site is much too large for HS2’s needs and parts could be developed with warehousing or industrial units now – creating much needed jobs for the inner-city area in the medium term.
By contrast, with construction of HS2 not set to begin until 2017 and the trains not running until 2026, it is argued that the delivery of jobs will take too long. Even then the RSMD would employ about 600 workers compared to thousands of opportunities which may be created by industrial development.
And the Labour MP, who has campaigned with landowners AXA to release the site, has been backed by a Parliamentary Select Committee which, while confirming the site is ideal for the HS2 depot, has urged HS2 Ltd to ascertain it’s needs now and release any unwanted land for development as soon as possible.
Mr Byrne welcomed the decision. He said: “This is a real breakthrough. The HS2 Committee has heard our call for jobs. Now HS2 Ltd must work with us on a Plan B that could see 2,334 jobs created in the inner city.”
But Mr Byrne did not argue that the Washwood Heath site was much too large for HS2’s needs. He argued that the depot should not be located there at all.
Mr Byrne has been outgunned and outmanoeuvred by MPs like Caroline Spelman (who do not want the depot on their patch) but is presenting defeat as a “breakthrough”.
What exactly is ‘Washwood Heath Plan B’, and what is the difference in land take compared to HS2 Ltd’s previous proposal?
The idea that HS2 Washwood Heath would create “thousands of skilled engineering jobs” is laughable. East Coast Trains has just 350 skilled and semi skilled depot staff — and that is for an old fleet which includes diesel trainsets (which are maintenance intensive).