Putting aside the merits of the project and contractor-related hiccups, construction of HS2 is now underway, albeit at a very preliminary stage. In this report we will look at the upcoming investment and development potential at the West Midlands end of the new high-speed line.
First let’s refresh ourselves on the planned routes and projected dates. Starting from London’s Euston station, Phase 1 of HS2 will follow existing rail lines in much of Greater London. It will then pass through largely rural parts (although often prime residential areas) of Buckinghamshire, the Oxfordshire/Northamptonshire border and Warwickshire. The line arrives in the West Midlands by passing to the east of Royal Leamington Spa, between Kenilworth and Coventry, and then on to the Coleshill area. Here a spur will leave what will eventually be a triangular junction and run into central Birmingham. Services from London to central Birmingham, taking around 49 minutes, are expected to start in 2026.
The main line will then continue north for a short distance and then divides into two lines. Phase 2a will run to Crewe and Manchester and Phase 2b to the East Midlands and Leeds. Construction of these phases is not expected to start until 2025, with services from London /Birmingham and the north commencing in 2033.
At this point it is important to consider what the intended purpose of HS2 is, and what its overall impact on development prospects might be away from the station locations. Apart from providing a fast (250mph) rail service between major cities, the new line is intended to free up capacity for more passenger traffic on existing lines. As the existing West Midlands rail network is heavily congested this means other locations not on the new line could indirectly become more attractive for development as a result. For example, Midlands Rail Hub is a programme of rail upgrades in the region which is intended to allow 150 more passenger trains a day to run on existing lines in the West Midlands and to Derby, Leicester and Nottingham, plus enable more freight traffic to access three major container hubs in the region. It is anticipated that the programme will be in place when HS2 opens in 2026.
It is also useful to consider what the impact on existing property in the region might be. Estimates suggest around 400 houses will need to be demolished forPhase 1, although only around 50 in the Birmingham area. There will also be an impact in that some industrial and commercial land will be taken for the line and for construction compounds, some of which could subsequently become available for development once the project is complete.