Maximising the economic benefits of HS2 for Staffordshire

I spent some of this week at MIPIM UK, the leading property development exhibition in Olympia, London.  We were the as part of the Northern Gateway Development Zone, which is a grouping of local authorities and local enterprise partnerships in Cheshire and Staffordshire with the aim of making the most of the development opportunities of the building of HS2.  As you may be aware, Staffordshire County Council voted against HS2, but now that it has been decided by central government to go ahead with the scheme, our aim is to minimise the environmental impact on our citizens and maximise the economic benefits.

It struck me that the enthusiasm  that I was hearing from many people for HS2 at the exhibition is in stark contrast with the views of many of our citizens.  I wonder whether they, and by they I mean HS2 Ltd, have made the case for the development sufficiently well.  As an engineer, it is fairly clear to me that the issue is not speed, although some people will bang on about being within an hour of London.  It’s about capacity in a crowded network – HS2’s argument is that the new lines are the motorway network for the railways, taking the strain off the crowded Victorian network that runs from the centres of our towns and cities.

The other aspect of HS2 for Staffordshire is if there is opportunity for more well-paid jobs from what will be the largest construction project in the county’s history, we want our fair share of them.  As I write, we simply don’t know how many jobs and how much it will be worth for our companies and citizens. However, mitigating the impact on local communities and the environment, remains our top concern.

Lots to do, and we will stay fully engaged with HS2 and the Northern Gateway Development Zone.

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