Scrapping the HS2 high speed rail line could pay for a rail line linking Sutton Coldfield, the Black Country and Warwickhire, according to campaigners.
The Sutton Park Line would run between Walsall and Water Orton, in Warwickshire, and include new stations in Aldridge and Sutton Coldfield.
And it’s just one of a number of improvements to road and rail services that could go ahead if HS2 is scrapped, according to a new report launched by former Cabinet Minister David Davis today.
Mr Davis, a former Brexit Secretary, said: “Together, the projects would bridge the divide between North and South, boost economic growth, improve capacity in our transport networks and provide a better service to passengers. What’s more, all proposals combined could be delivered quicker and cheaper than HS2.
“It is time we cancelled this vanity white elephant and focused on ensuring we properly prepare for the future needs of a fast-growing post-Brexit economy.”
The report was published by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which invited people to submit proposals for transport schemes which could be funded if HS2 was scrapped.
It says this would free up £50 billion that is currently due to be spent on the new rail network.
The HS2 line is due to run between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance says it has identified 28 projects which could all go ahead, at a total cost of £45.1bn.
They include re-opening the Sutton Park Line, at a cost of £100 million. This ran as a freight-only service between 1879 and 1965, and campaigners say it could become a passenger line allowing travellers to cross the West Midlands without the need to go into the centre of Birmingham.
This proposal was submitted to the Taxpayers’ Alliance by Malcolm Holmes, executive director of the West Midlands Rail Executive, a body that works with council leaders and mayors to oversee the regional rail network.
Other ideas include a £1bn upgrade to electrify the Chiltern Main Line, from London Marylebone to Moor Street and Snow Hill stations in Birmingham.
This would cut journey times as well as air pollution, because it would allow electric rather than diesel trains to be used.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance plan also includes proposals to re-open a dismantled railway link between Whitacre Junction, near Coleshill, and Hampton-in-Arden, in the Meriden Gap, in the borough of Solihull.
This £400m scheme could provide additional capacity between Coventry and Birmingham, as well giving more rail passengers to the National Exhibition Centre and Birmingham Airport without needling to change at Birmingham New Street, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.
Another proposal submitted by Mr Holmes is to re-open the Stourbridge to Lichfield line at a cost of £120m. Trains would run on the South Staffordshire railway and there would be new stations at Dudley, Wednesbury and Darlaston.
And Mr Holmes suggested upgrading the Rugby to Birmingham line, at a cost of £1.5bn.
It would involve adding extra tracks to the existing line, to increase capacity, and upgrading stations along the line.
Another proposal, is to upgrade the A5 to an expressway – similar to a motorway – with priority being given to sections between the junction with the M42, near Tamworth, and M1, near Rugby. This would cost £500 million and the idea was submitted by Bill Cullen, Chief Executive of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council.
John O’Connell, chief executive of TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “We have long argued that HS2 is a waste of taxpayers’ money and this report makes that fact even clearer. Instead of spending £56 billion on a vanity project, the government should heed this report and look at the many excellent alternatives on offer.
“Given the number of excellent alternatives, it’s now time to scrap this white elephant.”
An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said: “HS2 is expected to generate around £92 billion in benefits to the UK economy as a whole. It will transform rail journeys and give passengers thousands of extra seats every day.
“The capacity that HS2 provides makes future infrastructure projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Rail Hub possible. Local economic plans show almost 500,000 jobs and nearly 90,000 new homes resulting from the improved connectivity these services will provide across the country.
“The HS2 programme continues to enjoy cross party support, with the Phase One Bill receiving a majority of 357 votes from MPs in favour. In January this year, a joint letter from 40 leaders in the North and Midlands to all party leaders reinforced their commitment to work with us to deliver HS2.”