Shropshire Star

Residents 'fearful' that attempts will be made to restart HS2's scrapped phase two

Residents in Staffordshire remain "fearful" that attempts will be made to restart HS2's scrapped phase two, MPs have heard.


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Conservative former minister Sir Gavin Williamson, who represents South Staffordshire, said there are real fears the line will re-emerge in the future.

He said: "There's a lot of concern for Members of Parliament in Staffordshire that this is effectively being used as a Trojan horse to ram HS2 through by the back door."

Fellow Tory Staffordshire MP Jack Brereton said "little to no progress" seems to have been made to wind down site compounds, fill in boreholes and return land to its "rightful owners" across the phase two route, despite the project's cancellation.

The MPs raised concerns before MPs approved a motion instructing the High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill Select Committee to continue its work scrutinising the legislation, which would seek to only deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

Transport minister Huw Merriman said this included a 15-mile route which forms the "key backbone" of NPR, between Manchester Piccadilly station and the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire.

Mr Merriman also said the motion requests the committee removes sections of the railway south of Millington, which were only required to deliver the now cancelled elements of HS2.

He told the Commons debate: "We have been clear on this side, and others may not agree with it, we're not moving forward with phases 2a or 2b of HS2. Those are our proposals."

In October 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the Government would invest £36 billion in a series of transport schemes after cutting HS2 north of Birmingham.

HS2 phase one will run between London and Birmingham.

Phase 2a was due to run between the West Midlands and Crewe and Phase 2b between Crewe and Manchester.

In January, Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced that land on the axed HS2 phase 2a route could be developed for alternative use.

Mr Brereton, who represents Stoke-on-Trent South, outlined why Staffordshire MPs were interested in Tuesday's debate. He told the Commons: "It is because we fear those who are seeking to reignite phase two of HS2 and all the horrors it was set to wreak on our fine county."

He said people in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire have "overwhelmingly welcomed the Prime Minister's courageous and correct decision" to scrap phase two of HS2.

The MP added: "But it is disappointing that the eagerness to progress the plans set out through this motion have not been mirrored in the actions to wind down site compounds, fill in thousands of boreholes which have been left, and return land to its rightful owners across the rest of the phase two route.

"Little to no progress seems to have yet been made, and significant costs continue to spiral for a project which has been cancelled.

"People in communities such as Swynnerton and Yarnfield, in the constituency of (Sir Bill Cash, Conservative MP for Stone), are still fearful, given they are not yet seeing any visible signs of the unwinding.

"Motions like the one before us today do nothing to dispel those fears, and there are concerns that some people would like nothing better than to see phase two restarted."

Labour MP Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) said the scrapping of HS2 had caused him to lose faith in Parliament's commitment to transport in the north of England.

He said: "There was no legislation when the Prime Minister woke up one morning and decided to cancel HS2. There was no debate, there was no legislation, it was done on a whim.

"All those promises, all those manifesto commitments, all those promises to the business community and to the public that we would see this through because we had a generational responsibility to plan for the future, was scrapped overnight.

"And so I don't have any faith that any further parliamentary process will deliver ultimately better transport in the north of England, I think in the end it will be used by people who have another interest which is to stop it entirely."

Mr Merriman said: "Both I and my officials will continue to engage with local residents, leaders and communities and members of this place in terms of how we design the railway and how to minimise disruption from construction.

"I do understand the concerns honourable members have across the House, they have differing views but I am keen - as I always am - to work constructively to try and address those points but to move this project forward."

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