High speed rail will lead to the creation of an entire new city based around “London-Birmingham Airport”, the chief engineer of the new line has predicted.
Campaigners opposed to high speed rail reacted angrily after Professor Andrew McNaughton, chief engineer for the rail project known as High Speed Two (HS2), said the line would be the catalyst for a new settlement between Birmingham and Coventry.
And he predicted that Birmingham Airport, which will be next to a planned new HS2 station, would rename itself London-Birmingham, because it would be so easy to reach from the capital.
Coventry City Council, which is opposed to HS2, said his comments justified fears that the city would be swallowed up by a “Greater Birmingham” because of the rail line.
Prof McNaughton was speaking a few days before David Cameron, the Prime Minister, announced plans to build a series of settlements across the country.
Mr Cameron highlighted the “garden cities” created by social reformers and Quakers in the early years of the 20th century, which were designed to combine the benefits of city living with the benefits of life in the countryside, including fresh air and green spaces.
Stressing his commitment to simplifying planning regulations, Mr Cameron said: “There will be costs and protests. And I am certainly not doing it in the hope of immediate political advantage.
“I can see the furious objections – the banner headlines – already.”
Prof McNaughton made his comments at a conference for rail industry professionals in Derby, called iRail 2012.
He predicted that the airport and nearby National Exhibition Centre area would become the heart of a new city following the construction of the planned Birmingham Interchange station, which will serve the HS2 line.
He also suggested that HS2 would allow Birmingham Airport to rename itself “London-Birmingham”, because it would be closer to central London in journey times than either Stansted or Gatwick.
The planned new central station in Birmingham city centre would trigger development of that city’s east side as a new commercial quarter, Prof McNaughton said.
Meanwhile, a new station at Euston in central London, which will include housing as well as commercial and retail development, would be “the biggest development of any kind ever seen in London”, he said.
And a detailed proposed route for the second phase of HS2, running from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, will be passed to Transport Secretary Justine Greening within the next two weeks, and could be available for public scrutiny in the autumn, he said.
Prof McNaughton’s comments about the possible impact of Birmingham Interchange station at the airport follow the publication of a Department for Transport document which shows a number of trains running directly from London to the North and Scotland will stop at the Interchange station and avoid the planned new Curzon Street station in Birmingham city centre.
John Morris, head of government and industry affairs at Birmingham Airport was cool on the name change suggestion: “Why on earth would we do that?