Bulk of infrastructure spending in region on HS2

Future spending on infrastructure in the West Midlands is set to be one of the lowest levels in the country when HS2 is excluded, according to a new report.

The budget for HS2 has been soaring for years
The budget for HS2 has been soaring for years

The Government has announced plans for a multi-billion pound investment in infrastructure projects over the next decade, including more than £20bn in the West Midlands.

However the bulk of the cash in the region has been dedicated to HS2, with around half of infrastructure spending in the West Midlands hoovered up by the local section of the London-Birmingham line.

A national infrastructure and construction pipeline report shows the spending per head on infrastructure projects in the West Midlands will be £170 - seventh worst in the country and above only London.

When 'mega projects' HS2 and Hinkley Point C nuclear power station are taken into account, the per head spend jumps to £410, third highest in the country behind the South East.

Business leaders and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street say HS2 is vital for the region's prosperity, despite the line's spiralling cost and environmental concerns.

John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley, said people would much rather see investment in "smaller local projects" that provide greater benefits.

He said: "HS2 is a questionable project and given the change in business meeting market due to Covid it needs to be reassessed.

"What people actually want, is for example, more trains going into central Birmingham so they can access the central business district.

"These smaller local projects are more cost effective and people can see the advantages, rather than spending all that money on cutting 20 minutes off a journey to London."

The report also shows the region is lagging behind when it comes to spending on transport, with spending in 2019-20 at £135 per head when HS2 is taken out of the equation.

Only London had a lower transport spend at £98, while the North West was top on £246 per head.

Projects lined up for the West Midlands include more than £180m for Metro line extensions and previously announced funding for the revamp of Birchley Island in Oldbury.

More than £50m has been earmarked for the reinstatement of passenger services on rail lines including Wolverhampton-Walsall.

Ministers say £650bn of private and public investment will be spent on infrastructure projects over the next decade, creating new opportunities for thousands of apprentices, technicians, graduates and skilled workers.

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