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'Many ways' Shropshire can exploit HS2, says director

Telford | News | Published:

Plans are being drawn up to help Shropshire make the most of Britain's new high speed rail network, an HS2 chief has revealed.

Mike Lyons, project director for HS2, told bosses at a meeting in Telford he expects royal assent to be granted for the multi-billion pound project later this year, and for work to begin early in 2017.

While the route does not come into Shropshire, the building work for the line is going to lead to huge opportunities for local companies, he said.

About £4.4 billion has been allocated to ensuring that towns and cities which lie off the main route – including Telford and Shrewsbury – can capitalise on the new route once it is up and running, he added.

Work on the initial London to Birmingham phase is expected to be complete in 2026, and the second phase extending to northern cities including Leeds and Manchester in 2033.

At an event to relaunch local construction industry network, Shropshire Construction Excellence, at the University of Wolverhampton's Priorslee Campus in Telford, Mr Lyons said work was ongoing to help link Shropshire to the high-speed route.

"The key is rebalancing the network. It's not just about connecting people from Telford and Shrewsbury with London more quickly, it's the opportunity to connect people into Manchester, Leeds, through the connectivity schemes provided on the back of HS2 – and Midlands Connect is looking into that," he said.

The Midlands Connect Partnership has been charged with developing a Midlands-wide transport strategy to drive the regional economy and power the Government's ambition to build a Midlands Engine for Growth.

Mr Lyons said: "It's about working with Midlands Connect, and what they are looking at in terms of faster journey times and more capacity between Shrewsbury and Telford into Birmingham. Our vision is for HS2 to be a catalyst for growth and rebalancing – and the first stage of that will be the Midlands. Telford is an observer member of the West Midlands combined authority, and that means it's going to play an important role.

"HS2 will effectively supplement the capacity on the West Coast Main Line by creating more passenger journeys. It will release valuable capacity to make more places accessible on the classic West Coast network."

Mr Lyons also spoke to businesses about how they can play a role in the building of the line. The identity of the main building partner is due to be announced soon, and main contractors are still looking to link with SMEs, such as those in Shropshire, who want to play a part in the massive construction project.

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