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Monday 28 January 2013 Updated: 13/02 14:43
THE West Midlands will benefit from being right at the heart of Britain’s high speed rail network, according to the boss of the region’s transport authority.
Centro’s chief executive Geoff Inskip was speaking after Monday's confirmation of the route of the second phase of the controversial HS2 line.
It will provide a direct link between Birmingham along two branches to Manchester and Leeds with new stations at Toton near Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and Manchester Airport.
Journey times from the second city to Manchester will be cut from the current one hour 31 minutes to 41 minutes, from two hours to Leeds to 57minutes.
Campaigners have slammed Monday's announcement at a time when five legal challenges are pending on the section from Birmingham to London.
Mr Inskip insisted HS2's fast, direct services between major cities would release capacity on crowded existing lines for more passenger and freight services. He also said it would help ease road congestion which currently cost the West Midlands £2.3billion a year.
"So much of the talk so far has inevitably focused on the phase one link from Birmingham to London, but the economic benefits of linking our regions with faster, direct services are often overlooked,” Mr Inskip said.
"We’re excited because we’re right at the heart of this network and the challenge for us now is to get the very best return we can from HS2.”
Construction on HS2 will begin in four years with the southern section open to passengers in 13 years and the northern section six years after that.
Independent research predicts phase one will generate 22,000 jobs in the West Midlands and deliver £1.5billion per year to the regional economy.
But Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin, who lives in Kenilworth, told us: "The HS2 proposal is fundamentally flawed and announcing the routes to the north to bolster support will backfire.
"HS2 has been spun as being good for growth, but only this week 32 academics from the Transport Planning Society said that was wrong."
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