HS2 is vital to improve connections within the Midlands, and between the Midlands and the North.
HS2 is being reviewed by a government (in Westminster) by a review led by civil servants and advisors (based in London). They seem likely to recommend HS2, but any dilution of the programme (not beyond Birmingham or 1 leg rather than 2) is a failure when it comes to improving regional connectivity and all that brings.
Last week, a number of the core cities group met in Leeds. Our train from Nottingham took 2 hours. With HS2 that would be less than 30 minutes. Its not just about speed, as part of the constraint on improving regional connectivity today is a congested old railway system. Numerous tales were told of trains getting stuck behind broken down or earlier delayed trains. A new, essentially separated, high speed network will speed up key links and reduce congestion on many of the local services.
For Nottingham, the East Midlands Hub at Toton is forecast to help generate over 70,000 new jobs. As the inward investment agency for Nottingham, and the destination management organisation for the region promoting tourism, I firmly support those assessments. Linking up the East Midlands with the West (20 minutes from Toton to Birmingham), and linking the East Midlands with the North (12 minutes to Chesterfield, 20 to Sheffield, 30 to Leeds) would be hugely transformative. A high tech region with incredible assets – linked together better than ever. Yes, the world is going digital, but the people to people connections will continue to grow and more sustainable transport solutions must be part of that.
For inward investment, what better argument could there be to foreign investors that we are confident in our infrastructure projects and that we will create economic areas that can access 10s millions of customers within 30 minutes. We often use the argument that millions of people are 2 hours from Nottingham. What a difference it would make to say that same economic area is within 30 minutes. And at a time when we are aiming for net zero carbon, a major shift from road to rail, and avoiding air transport, has to be central to that. In Nottingham, we can then connect amazing high speed rail to the best public transport in the UK – Britain’s best bus operator, and award winning tram network – a fully accessible light rail tram system.
And for tourism and promotion of our amazing culture, sport, heritage, events, countryside, HS2/Toton will be the best way to get here and help get around. Whether you are visiting Castles and discovering Robin Hood, or getting fast access to cycle and walking options in Sherwood Forest, HS2/Toton will give you links to airports in East and West Midlands, and links to other cities and attractions. And again, Nottingham has such great public transport, that for sustainable travel options, it will be hard to beat electric trains to Toton, then visitors can hop on Nottingham’s trams and eco-friendly buses, before walking either in the city centre, or to other visitor attractions. Greener than Robin Hood’s hat!
So lobby your MP, write to government in support of HS2, and ensure that it is delivered in full to help Nottingham connect better with the West Midlands, the North (as well other areas of the UK, maybe even to the over congested and priced London!).