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Coronavirus pandemic giving 'unintentional shield' to HS2 plans, say Shropshire villagers

By Dominic Robertson | Market Drayton | Coronavirus | Published:

The coronavirus crisis is providing an 'unintentional diversionary shield' to plans for HS2, according to Shropshire villagers set to be blighted by construction traffic.

Villagers in Woore have campaigned hard against HS2 construction traffic

Woore Parish Council says the current financial costs of the coronavirus pandemic mean that HS2's ever increasing bill will come under more scrutiny in the years ahead, and that the resources required for the project will be needed for "far more worthy causes" in the near future.

The claims are made in a letter to North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, who is a vocal opponent of the scheme, asking for further support in their campaign against the rail line.

Mr Paterson, who has previously voted against HS2 plans, said they have now become "ridiculous" in the light of the costs the Government will face as a result of support needed for the coronavirus crisis.

He said: "When Parliament returns I will make my views very clear that HS2 was a bad idea before corona and now it is absolutely ridiculous to be spending this sort of money on out-of-date technology."

The Conservative MP described the plans as "disastrous for Woore" and added: "If you spent one percent of the costs of HS2 on getting our broadband infrastructure up to standard that would be far more beneficial to every family and business in the UK."

Mr Paterson said that the coronavirus crisis had also shown that people are able to work from home, putting another question mark over the need for HS2 to be completed.

He said: "You can see on a monthly basis the costs are out of control and what we have learned with corona is very large numbers of people can work from home."

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Woore faces being used as a route for lorries carrying materials to build phase 2A of the rail line from the West Midlands to Crewe.

The proposed route would see about 260 HGVs travel from the A51 and turn on to the A525 at Woore daily during the peak of construction.

Revolutionised

In a letter to Mr Paterson, Michael Cowey, chairman of Woore Parish Council said: "The current focus on the Covid-19 pandemic is unintentionally providing a diversionary shield to HS2 in their efforts to push forward plans which have not been fully approved."

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He added: "Given the necessary priority of the Government to focus on managing the Covid-19 pandemic and the extraordinary financial plans being put in place by the Chancellor, no-one can accurately predict the state of the economy as we move beyond the pandemic.

"As a result of the Covid-19 lock down measures, working practices have been revolutionised, working from home normalised, use of transport reduced and new eyes are on what is imperative for a civilised society to function in the developed world.

"Whatever world we are left with after Covid-19 it will not be the same world we inhabited prior to the pandemic outbreak. As a country we will need to reset our priorities on many levels.

"We believe going forward, the financial viability of HS2 will be under deeper scrutiny with the real possibility that HS2 Phase 2a will be cancelled from Birmingham to Crewe to save significant amounts of funding that cannot be justified by a 15-minute reduction in a travel time from Crewe to London or at the ‘cost’ of the physical wreckage affecting two counties which receive none of whatever benefits are being ‘spun’ but are affected by all of the destruction and disruption."

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