Urban transport needs to work well beyond the HS2 station for the benefits of the investment to be realised.
As HS2 makes its way through Parliament, the project and its many opportunities featured heavily at both Labour and Tory Party Conferences this year – with some interesting new debates and conversations emerging. Of the many fringe events we attended in Manchester and Birmingham, three key themes stood out:
First, politicians were quite clear that the benefits of HS2 to Birmingham stack up on capacity grounds rather than speed. While speed is important, the impacts of achieving a 49 minutes journey time from 1 hour 21 minutes are marginal. On the other hand, increasing capacity should strengthen and deepen the economic links between Britain’s capital and its second city.
This leads to the second point. Increased capacity means more workers, shoppers and money will flow between the two cities. This should lead to new opportunities for regeneration and jobs growth in Birmingham and other cities on the HS2 route. By establishing Birmingham’s new Curzon station as an economic hub, the City Council is creating new places for offices, retail, homes and public space to create new opportunities for growth on the south side of the city.
The most important issue – and the conversations are only just starting to scratch the surface here – for making the most of HS2 (or One North and Midlands Connect for that matter) is for cities to get a better deal from Government when it comes to paying for and managing their transport infrastructure. The wider benefits of HS2 can only be realised across the city-region if the transport system works well beyond the HS2 station and connects travellers into the wider local area. This means creating an integrated transport system that allows riders to easily and affordably move between train, bus, tram and cycling. Cities outside London are not there yet.
It’s is not just Whitehall that needs to do more here. Cities also need to better manage their local transport systems, and to work together in more constructive ways. I recently published a brief that sets the top seven priorities for cities and Whitehall to make city transport work more effectively:
Delivering these priorities will help cities and government to prepare the ground, in order to make the most of HS2 when it finally arrives. They will also help cities, in the meantime, to develop a transport network that gets people into work, opens up new areas for housing and employment, and links their city centre to the rest of the city-region – all important steps on their own that will make an important difference to their economic performance.
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