Birmingham Trams Open Up New Areas For Development
At last, some movement related to the HS2 high speed rail line, even if it isn’t the kind most Brummagems are hoping for.
The extension, required as part of the package of infrastructure to support Birmingham’s hosting of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, had become embroiled in the HS2 controversy because it crossed part of the area reserved for the new HS2 Curzon Street station. Two metro stops will serve the station. The government’s decision ends the delay.
The extension, part of a £1.5B tram expansion plan, will help open up some significant development opportunities in Digbeth and around Curzon Street. It takes the line from Bull Street in the city centre via Queensway and Hammerson’s Martineau Galleries development site to Digbeth and High Street Deritend.
The eastern extension will help build the tram network from today’s 7.7 million customers to 13.4 million by 2023. Eventually the eastern extension will extend as far as Solihull.
The metro announcement means the West Midlands Combined Authority overcame a handful of significant landowner objections from sources as diverse as hamburger chain McDonald’s and Quintain’s 200K SF City Park Gate development. Quintain argued the land was already under threat of compulsory purchase for HS2.
Meanwhile reports suggest nothing much to cheer about HS2 itself. Staff at the government-owned railway company have been warned of redundancies whilst Andrew Sentance, a senior member of the Oakervee review panel looking in to the future of HS2, has accused the government of selective quotation and preparing to misrepresent the panel’s generally positive conclusion about HS2.
Current speculation focuses on shelving the £28B Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester element of the line, perhaps replacing newly laid track with upgraded existing track.
However, this will provide scant comfort for the Midlands because the viability of the Birmingham to London part of the HS2 line depends on the existence of the northern Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester section.
HS2 Chairman Sir Terry Morgan told the Railway Industry Association annual conference in November 2018 that without the northern elements, the HS2 project was in serious peril.
“The truth is, that without the northern section of HS2 there isn’t a business case for the line at all," he said. "You wouldn’t do HS2 on the basis of Phase 1 [London to Birmingham] on its own. HS2 definitely needs Phase 2, otherwise it does not work.”