Business Secretary Vince Cable is to intervene in a row over claims Jaguar Land Rover is threatened by plans to turn its rail terminal into a construction depot for the planned high speed rail line.
Maps published by HS2 Ltd, the business responsible for building the line known as High Speed Two or HS2, show it taking over a rail terminal in Erdington, Birmingham, which is currently used by Jaguar.
The carmaker currently uses the terminal to transport completed vehicles from the factory, but HS2 Ltd has stated that it wants the terminal to transport construction materials into the city.
Jaguar Land Rover has not commented on the plans, but concerns were raised in the House of Commons by Erdington MP Jack Dromey, who highlighted the investment put into Jaguar Land Rover by its Indian owners, Tata.
He said: “Jaguar Land Rover and Tata have committed to Birmingham and Britain, transforming the Jaguar plant in my constituency into a world-class success story.
“Just when the plant is taking on 1,100 workers, the High Speed 2 route unnecessarily threatens its rail terminal, which would have serious implications for the company and the community.”
He asked Dr Cable: “Will the Secretary of State intervene with his counterpart in the Department for Transport and meet me, because nothing must be done to put at risk the success of the biggest plant in Birmingham?”
The Business Secretary told MPs: “I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and anyone else concerned about this problem. I meet regularly with Jaguar Land Rover, as does the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend Michael Fallon.
“This is not an issue that it has raised with us so far, but we are happy to pursue the matter.
“This is a magnificent company investing £2 billion over this decade and creating high-level employment.”
Dr Cable highlighted government support for Jaguar Land Rover, which last month became one of 16 companies in the West Midlands to share a slice of £124 million from the latest round of the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
He said: “The Government have made a substantial contribution to support it through the regional growth fund, support for the engine plant in Wolverhampton, which is now getting off the ground, and in other respects.”
Birmingham city council has also asked for assurances that Jaguar would still be able to use the terminal. If not, it wants HS2 Ltd to make other arrangements.
Business leaders and politicians in Birmingham and Solihull have generally been firm supporters of the proposal to build a new high speed rail network linking London and Birmingham, and eventually extending to Manchester and Leeds.
It is expected to boost the West Midlands’ economy by £1.5 billion per annum and create 22,000 jobs in the region. Travel times between Birmingham and London will be cut to 45 minutes, although one of the strongest arguments of building a new network is that existing lines such as the West Coast Main Line are already overcrowded, making a new service essential regardless of the speeds at which trains travel.
However, the proposal is more controversial in areas such as Warwickshire and Staffordshire, which will not be served by high speed rail stations.
As we reported last week, MPs and Birmingham city council are concerned about plans to seize a site in Washwood Heath in east Birmingham for use as a train and carriage depot – against the council’s objections.
The authority hopes to build a new high-tech business park on the land, creating a potential 6,500 jobs. Another 700 jobs already on the site will be displaced.
A new depot would create 400 maintenance posts but these would tend to be relatively low-skilled. Local MP Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) claims the depot plan would ruin plans to revive the economy in one of most deprived parts of Birmingham.
Hundreds of households have received a surprise windfall after they were offered £1,000 to simply let surveyors working on the HS2 high-speed rail line enter their properties.
Almost 1,470 homes have been offered the cash in Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Birmingham and Solihull.
Householders have been offered the money if they provide access to surveyors carrying out an environmental survey, designed to help engineers minimise the effects of the new rail link between London and the West Midlands.