Birmingham City chairman Tom Wagner has written to Rishi Sunak following reports the Prime Minister could shelve plans for the second stage of HS2.
The American, whose investment firm Knighthead completed the takeover of the St Andrew’s club in July- has shared his thoughts on HS2 with Mr Sunak.
In a letter to the PM, which has also been published by the club, he expressed his concern over reports suggesting the government may be considering scrapping the second stage of HS2.
Stage 2 of the route includes the Birmingham to Manchester section of the high speed rail development. This has already cost £2.3 billion which is unrecoverable, but £34bn could be saved if it is shelved, the Independent has reported. The PM and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt met to discuss building costs on September 12.
Sunak reportedly wants to scrap the northern route from Birmingham to Manchester, but West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who has fiercely backed the project, has declared he “has no intention” of reconsidering the route.
Now, Blues owner Wagner has also had his say on the matter, urging Mr Sunak to keep phase 2 in place.
What has Tom Wagner said?
Wagner said any plans to scrap the HS2 link could result in a ‘loss of trust’ from foreign investors.
He wrote: “The economic and social benefits of HS2 have been widely discussed and broadly supported. I won’t delve into them again here. Instead, I would like to draw attention to a benefit that has received less focus - continued trust and confidence in the UK government which supports foreign direct investment.
“The expectation is that the government will honour its commitment to deliver on publicly stated long term plans. Any deviation could result in a loss of investor trust and this would have a considerable negative impact on the UK. The ambitious HS2 project falls into this category.”
Wagner also revealed that Knighthead’s decision to invest in the club, as well as because of ‘the club’s history and heritage’ - was partly driven by Birmingham’s ‘long term development vision’, and ‘the city’s location, at the heart of the country, and the exciting plans to improve connectivity with the rest of the UK through projects including HS2’.
He added: “HS2 has the potential to transform the West Midlands and other cities and regions connected by the ‘Y’ network. Its completion will bring rewards to the entire country. By staying the course and demonstrating a commitment to this project, the UK government will send a powerful message to the investment community, ultimately benefiting the long-term prospects of the UK as a whole.
“Knighthead believes that Birmingham is on the rise again and is willing to play a role in making it happen for the benefit of everyone who lives and works in the city, today and in the future.”
You can read the letter in full on the Birmingham City FC website, here.
‘Proposed cuts by the government to HS2 are reckless’ - more Birmingham stakeholders speak out on claims the line to Manchester could be axed
Glenn Howells, Partner at Howells, the Birmingham-based architects responsible for HS2’s Birmingham Depot, has also written to the PM to urge him to reconsider plans to scrap phase 2.
In a letter, he wrote: “Birmingham and the West Midlands have enormous capacity for growth in terms of housing, skills, and jobs which will not happen if HS2 is botched.
“Phase 1 of HS2 needs Birmingham to be properly connected to London via Euston. Without this development in the West Midlands, associated economic growth and jobs will not happen with a direct and negative impact on the whole of the UK economy. Phase 2 to Manchester is also critical to creating conditions for true economic growth throughout the UK.
“The recently proposed cuts by the government to HS2 are reckless, and not prudent. They not only squander the huge investment made to date but also miss the national economic benefits of connecting our major cities for generations to come.”