Traditionally Birmingham has been known as the ‘second city’ after London. For the last 20 years Manchester’s star has been rising and it now makes a valid claim to be second city. The Northern Powerhouse seemed to support this call and the devolved powers given to Manchester both promoted by George Osborne.
Yet behind the scenes the Midland Engine project is getting a lot of infrastructure investment. This covers Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester and the area of the Midlands between Shropshire and Lincolnshire. Birmingham will be the first to get improved High Speed Rail services making it a nod away from London and freeing up other routes, and many banks are re-locating to Birmingham.
Manchester was King Cotton and Birmingham was the workshop to the world. Both are great centres. Both have lost their original purpose. Manchester has appeared to be more successful in re-inventing itself sometimes it seems on the back of its soccer teams and the music of the 90s. The airport is much more successful than any in the Midlands and that is a driver of investment. The transfer, reluctantly, of the BBC studios to Manchester (Salford actually) also brought some prestige.
Also in the north is Leeds which, with Yorkshire swagger, also makes claims to greatness. Quite a number of financial companies are in Leeds. Improving links between Manchester and Leeds is one of the Northern Powerhouse targets. So called High Speed 3. Viewed from the north lack of east-west transport investment has long been a difficulty yet it can seem local rivalries almost encourage keeping each other at arms length.
It seems that Birmingham is currently a place to watch although Manchester’s devolved powers might give it another surge and will links to Leeds create emphasis the powerhouse. Interesting times.