Will high-speed rail boost all the region's businesses?

By Peter Plisner
BBC Midlands Transport Correspondent

Image caption, The rail link would bring new business and thousands of jobs say supporters

Although it will cost billions of pounds, High Speed Rail is expected to help support the West Midlands economy and lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs.

When they were last surveyed more than 85% of members of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce said they felt a fast connection to London would provide an economic boost for the region.

One business that stands to gain the most is Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre.

Better connections to Birmingham International would help the NEC attract bigger and better shows helping to increase profits, they claim.

Managing director Kathryn James said: "One of the most precious things our visitors and our exhibitors are trading on is their time.

"So anything makes it easier faster and quicker to get to us is a huge advantage."

'8,000 new jobs'

A recent report from accountants KPMG claimed the West Midland economy could benefit to the tune of £2.5bn if the high-speed line is built.

Chancellor George Osborne also said it would help to create 8,000 new jobs.

But with both of the proposed high-speed rail stations in the Birmingham area, some businesses based elsewhere in the region remain sceptical about the likely benefits.

Some question the billions of pounds likely to be spent on the line. Warwick-based Dorje's Wine is one of them.

Managing director Alastair MacBrayne said: "High-speed rail is going to pass us by and only benefit Birmingham and it's not going to do anything for the regeneration of our local transport services."

Regeneration claims 'overstated'

There are also concerns about the the regeneration impact of the high-speed line.

Much of the new building will be centred on Birmingham's Eastside, where one of the stations will be built.

Phil Jones, a lecturer in human geography at Birmingham University, said regeneration would be fairly limited.

"It'll have a huge impact around Birmingham's Eastside, but not so much for the wider region."

There are also predictions property prices could rise because of high-speed rail.

After several years in decline, experts are suggesting Birmingham will become much more desirable for commuters.

Gary Taylor, of property specialists Argent, says: "Once you get under an hour's journey time to central London, it'll start to make a real difference.

"I think you could see a 10%, maybe 20%, uplift in property prices."

High-speed rail comes with a high price tag - but there could also be some big benefits - the arrival of the motorways in the latter half of the last century clearly helped to boost the regional economy.

Could the same be about to happen if high speed rail arrives too?

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