On Sunday morning (September 20th), the newly revamped Birmingham New Street Station re-opened.
Following a £750 million overhaul, the new station has a light and airy appearance and BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed reports that the building now looks more like an airport than a train station.
The opening of the new station is expected to provide an economic boost to the area – similar to how the areas around King's Cross and St Pancras benefited from those stations being redeveloped. Plus, the Grand Central shopping centre will open above the station later this week. It will be one of the largest shopping centres unveiled in Europe this year, and its anchor tenant will be John Lewis.
However, many experts see the opening of the new station as a sign that the UK economy is rebalancing away from London and the south-east of England.
'Turned a corner'
John Lewis managing director, Andy Street, says that Birmingham and the West Midlands have turned a corner since the recession. Mr Street is also the head of the Birmingham and Solihull enterprise partnership, and he says that the region was among the hardest hit during the financial crisis.
According to the Office for National Statistics, gross value added – a measure of the economic value of the goods and services produced in an area per capita - in the West Midlands fell by 3.8 per cent in 2008-9. This was the fastest drop in any region in the UK, with the average being -2.2 per cent. The most recent figures available are for 2012-13 and show a much different story – an GVA increase of 2.8 per cent. That's higher than the average in England (2.6 per cent), London (2.6 per cent) and the South East (two per cent).
"In terms of rebalancing the British economy geographically, the figures show progress. The North East, North West, West Midlands and Wales all grew faster than London – although, of course, from a much lower base," explained Mr Ahmed.
Other indicators that the UK economy is rebalancing include the continued expansion of Jaguar Land Rover. Based in the Midlands, the car manufacturer has invested £11 billion since 2008 and employs 36,000 people.
In addition, HSBC's UK bank headquarters will open in Birmingham in 2018.
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