Birmingham jobs opportunity 'lost' MP says

Image source, HS2
Image caption,
MP Liam Byrne welcomed a decision to build a tunnel under the Bromford estate

The opportunity to create new jobs in an "unemployment blackspot" will be lost due to plans for the HS2 high speed rail line, an MP has said.

The government published the final plans for HS2 earlier.

They included proposals to turn a former factory site in Washwood Heath, Birmingham, into a maintenance depot for trains, with about 650 jobs.

Liam Byrne said it had previously been earmarked for industrial development that could support up to 7,000 jobs.

The Labour MP for Hodge Hill welcomed a decision by HS2 to build a tunnel under the Bromford estate, but said the decision to base a depot on the old LDV and Alston site marked a missed opportunity.

He said the land, about the size of 100 football pitches, represented a third of all industrial land in Birmingham and that owners had already been approached by potential developers.

"Seven thousand jobs in the centre of one of the country's worst unemployment blackspots is a big deal," he said.

"My constituency has the second highest unemployment rate in the country and Ladywood has the highest."

'Huge benefits'

The plan for the site, put together by the city council, included a mix of skilled and unskilled jobs.

Instead, from about 2026, the site will be used by HS2 to clean and maintain trains.

Until then, it is expected to be used as a yard to store materials during the construction of the line.

Mr Byrne said a possible alternative for the HS2 depot, had also been identified near the airport.

In a statement, HS2 Ltd said Birmingham would see "huge benefits from being at the centre of Britain's high speed rail network".

"There will be around 8,500 jobs created at the two new stations at Curzon Street and by the airport, as well as the 650 jobs at the Washwood Heath maintenance site," it said.

"But more immediately we are holding two conferences in the city next month looking at skills and the billions of pounds of supply chain opportunities from HS2."

It said it continued to have detailed discussions with the local authority over the plans.

Birmingham City Council said it had continued to raise concerns with HS2 Ltd about the impact of the Washwood Heath depot on the supply of industrial land in the city.

"The city council will continue to work with all parties to maximise the employment and training opportunities at the site, including during the construction phase of HS2, at the proposed depot itself if it goes ahead and on any remaining land post construction," a council spokesman added.

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