A planned high speed rail depot in Birmingham could “destroy” the economy in the eastern part of the city, the House of Commons is to be told.
An MP will urge Transport Ministers to block proposals for a new train storage and maintenance depot in one of the most deprived parts of Birmingham – and warn that the measure will cost 7,200 jobs if it goes ahead.
Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) has secured a Commons debate about plans drawn up by HS2 Ltd, the company behind the proposed 225mph rail network, to seize a site in Washwood Heath in east Birmingham for use as a train and carriage depot.
Birmingham City Council is also opposed to the scheme, which will use land once used by train manufacturer Alstom and vanmaker LDV.
The council has its own proposals to use the site as a high-tech business park, which it says could create 6,500 well-paid jobs by providing a home for motor manufacturing and green technology businesses.
Although the rail depot would create around 400 jobs, these would be low-skilled and relatively low-paid.
Speaking to The Birmingham Post in advance of the speech, Mr Byrne said: “To build a marshalling yard on that land would be the economic crime of the century. It would condemn east Birmingham to decades of economic failure.
“A business park on the site as planned could at a stroke take one in six people off the dole queue.
"But if the Government proceeds with the marshalling yard then it will cost jobs because there are businesses currently there, on top of the potential jobs that will never be created.”
He added: “You have to look at the big picture, and the big picture is that this will destroy east Birmingham’s economy for the 21st century.”
Other MPs including Jack Dromey (Lab Erdington) have also expressed concerns about the scheme.
A minster from the Department for Transport will attend the debate and reply to Mr Byrne’s comments.
Birmingham MPs and the city council – who are firm supporters of the planned high speed rail line in general – have come under fire from some politicians opposed to the rail network.
Warwickshire MP Dan Byles (Con), MP for North Warwickshire & Bedworth, who opposes the high speed line, has accused the council of “cherry-picking” the bits of the scheme they like.
He has warned that if the maintenance depot is not built in Washwood Heath then it would have to go elsewhere, possibly at a site near Middleton, Warwickshire.
According to maps published by HS2 Ltd, the depot will cover 150 hectares south of existing rail line bordered by Bromford Drive to the east, Drews Lane and Warren Road to the south and Aston Church Road to the west.
It would mean a third of Birmingham’s available industrial land will be given over to the rail depot.
Much of the affected land is currently unused, but it includes parts of a sorting office owned by Birmingham-based mail and parcel delivery company UK Mail, as well as a plant belonging to Cemex UK, which manufactures railway sleepers, used in rail tracks.
Birmingham City Council and MPs have also expressed concern that HS2 Ltd’s maps reveal plans to use a freight rail terminal at Jaguar’s plant in Erdington, which the carmaker currently uses to transport completed vehicles from the factory.
In the short term, special restrictions on planning permission will be imposed on land which will be used by the line to prevent any new developments being built on it.
Ministers are set to reveal details of the route for the second phase of the rail line, running north from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, very soon.
It will include options for stations in Manchester, Leeds, South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and at Heathrow Airport, and possibly elsewhere.
The first phase will include a station in Birmingham city centre and another near Birmingham Airport.