The controversial High Speed 2 rail link between London and Birmingham is back in the spotlight following David Cameron's comments about the scheme in Prime Ministers Questions. The PM said that while he is in favour of the project, he had been told that it has now been kicked in to the long grass.
This will be welcomed by those opposed to the railway line, like 51m, the coalition of groups fighting the proposals, which this week happily posted a Spectator article on its website predicting the scheme's demise (http://www.51m.co.uk/news/tory-minister-hs2-%E2%80%98effectively-dead%E2%80%99). But others, like former transport secretary Lord Adonis will be less pleased. Earlier this month he warned that "dither and delay" by the coalition government means that HS2 may not be delivered on time. He added that plans to introduce legislation on HS2 before 2015 may be jeopardised by wrangling between the coalition partners.
Does it matter to the Midlands? Jerry Blackett, chief executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, thinks so. Speaking out in favour of the project he said "Our competitors are surging ahead and investing in their railways because they recognise their importance in boosting regional economies and ensuring businesses can access markets. We cannot allow our future prosperity and growth to be derailed by a minority of vocal opponents in the south. If we continue to muddle along we must accept that our economy will follow suit and watch as we are out paced by the dynamic economies that had the foresight to invest in High Speed Rail."
The size of that investment is the main issue of course. For a country in double-dip recession the £32bn price tag for HS2 is a large one to swallow. Part of the money will be spent compensating landowners at the Birmingham end of the route who have had a modern-day coach and horses driven through their development sites.
Reports in today's Financial Times 2 and The Times newspapers state that Cameron insists that the government will press ahead with HS2. In my experience, the Midlands property community is fairly ambivalent towards the project, beyond a low level murmur of if-it's-good-for-the-economy-it-should-be-good-for-property. As the line offers no benefits for the East Midlands there is subdued enthusiasm there, and even in Birmingham, which stands to benefit most, property folk are more concerned with where office supply will come from in the next five years, rather than the still rather dubious possibility of thousands of travellers arriving in Eastside in 15 years time. "It's just too far away," a senior Birmingham agent told me this week and he seems to speak for many.
Is HS2 relevant now to Midlands property - what do you think?
Picture via Flickr.com courtesy of Jon Curnow