A Birmingham paper has picked up on the possibility of a HS2 depot in the Washwood Heath of Birmingham area providing jobs for the unemployed. Unfortunately this is another example of HS2 providing the possibility of a solution many years in the future for a problem that is real today.
The depot won’t exist for many years: the hybrid bill to develop HS2 is not expected to get through Parliament before 2015. One of the former employers closed down in 2004: the people in the area need real jobs now, not hypothetical jobs in the future. And there is still no guarantee that HS2 Ltd would put the depot there: their report says that the Washwood Heath site is “a credible option to assess”, not the definite site.
In addition George Osbourne spoke yesterday about how HS2 would enable the Curzon Street area of Birmingham to be regenerated. However, regeneration plans were already in progress when HS2 was announced last March. For instance in 2007, the Birmingham Mail had an article about a “£350m vision for Curzon Park area” “which would create 7000 jobs in the area.”
Even the announcement in March last year of the route of HS2 caused problems with regeneration plans in the area: the Birmingham Post reported that Birmingham City University needed to scrap plans for an Eastside campus which it had spent had spent £30 million on developing because of the proposed Curzon Street station there.
(Meanwhile HS2 is putting at risk other potential regeneration: for instance in Camden, a proposed ventilation shaft from the HS2 tunnels means that a site there may miss out on regeneration funds.)
And Birmingham itself has found that newly announced Government rules on applications to the Regional Growth Fund in the West Midlands mean that only certain schemes can be considered. A number of bids are no longer suitable – including a “£7 million bid for completion of infrastructure to deliver the Eastside regeneration project.”
So what is the real incremental benefit of HS2 in Birmingham?