HS2 and ‘connectivity packages’, part three
On 24 June a revised £1.6 billion HS2 connectivity package was presented by Laura Shoaf, ITA strategic director of policy and strategy, to a meeting of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority at Birmingham’s council house.
Several of the schemes can be traced back ten or more years, well before any mention of HS2. Presumably, some Centro staff hope that re-badging projects as HS2-enabling connectivity will make them more attractive to government. As might be expected, the case for most of them looks very shaky indeed. Given Birmingham’s disastrous over-reliance on diesel buses, a much better use of resources might lie in sponsoring electrification of city road public transport, and creating a safe cycling network.
According to the report, “HS2 will release significant additional capacity which will to help deliver transformational connectivity between our towns and cities, thus unlocking appreciable economic benefits and facilitating access to local jobs and training”. What that means, is anyone’s guess.
As can be seen, the largest single element in the ‘pre-HS2’ connectivity package is a circuitous £470 million tramway between Birmingham and Bickenhill HS2 station, routed via Chelmsley Wood. However, plans for a tram between Bickenhill HS2 and Coventry seem to have disappeared. The Chelmsley Wood Midland Metro is supposed to have a benefit/cost in excess of 2, which ought to trigger extremely careful scrutiny. Needless to say, no economic analysis seems to be available.
The ‘post-HS2’ connectivity proposals include various ‘Sprint’ bus rapid transit routes (such as on the A34 Walsall to Birmingham and between Bickenhill HS2 and Coleshill Parkway), extension of rail service to Aldridge, and Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton rail electrification.