HS2: Dismay in Shropshire at decision to go ahead with project
The Government's decision to press on with the controversial HS2 rail link has been met with dismay from residents in Shropshire who fear they will be overwhelmed by construction traffic.
Leaders of Woore Parish Council said they were disappointed the controversial high-speed rail link between Birmingham, London and the North of England had been given the go-ahead.
North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, who has been a vocal critic of HS2, said the rail line was a poor deal for taxpayers.
"This is a disappointing decision, I don't believe HS2 is value for this huge sum of money," he said.
"I would like to see it spent on local transport programmes, and 21st century technology like world-class broadband.
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"The money could be used across the Midlands and the North for better local rail and road schemes, and everybody in every part of the UK are going to see their lives improved economically, socially and educationally if we had world-class broadband."
Woore Parish Council has campaigned against plans to route HS2 construction traffic through the village.
The council said not only would it have a huge impact on the area, but would also add millions of pounds to the cost of the scheme, as it would be cheaper to use the M6.
Mike Cowey, chairman of the parish council, said he was surprised the scheme was given the go-ahead in its entirety.
"I thought it would be just the first phase, from London to Birmingham, that would be given the go-ahead, and they would do the next stage, up to Crewe, at a later date."
Mr Cowey said the council was not giving up the fight, saying it would now be petitioning the House of Lords on the matter.
"It will still have to go through the House of Lords, and we're looking for some further assurances," he said.
Mr Cowey said re-routing HS2 traffic would save the company millions of pounds, but it had consistently ignored these requests.
"We will continue to fight," he said. "We're not against HS2 in its entirety, although personally I think it's a lot of money that could be better spent on a lot of things that could benefit everybody.
"HS2 has been designed for the 20th century, and it's going to be out of date when it's constructed."
Parish council vice-chairman Gaynor Irwin added: "I think we can spend £106 billion plus better in other areas, be it in local rail services or on the NHS."
Get on with it, say businesses
A business group in Shropshire today welcomed the Government decision to press on with HS2, saying it can help transform the region.
The new rail line won’t physically pass through Shropshire but promises to impact on services in the county.
Richard Sheehan, chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The UK needs substantial infrastructure investment to improve competitiveness and encourage growth and therefore, the Government’s decision to support HS2 must be seen in a positive light.
“Clearly it passes Shropshire by some distance, however it has been reported that it will free up capacity on our current lines which are clearly challenged.
“Whilst HS2 will add value in and around the area it runs, we will not lose sight of the fact we need to massively improve our rail services in Shropshire, and electrification will be a key part of that to make services run faster and more efficient.”
West Midlands Confederation of British Industry regional director Richard Butler said: “The Prime Minister’s decision to back HS2 is exactly the sort of bold, decisive action required to inject confidence in the economy. It sends the right signal around the world that the UK is open for business.
“HS2 shows the Government’s commitment to levelling up the nations and regions of the UK. The project will bring jobs, new homes, skills and investment to the areas of the country that need them most. Once built, HS2 will bring much needed capacity to our railways and help to realise the government’s promise of an ‘infrastructure revolution’ for the North, Midlands and beyond.
“The time for debate over HS2 is over and the time for delivery is now.”
Shovel-ready to help services
HS2 is “shovel-ready” and is ready to transform public transport in Shropshire and the West Midlands.
That is the promise from Midlands Connect, the transport partner of the Midlands Engine and the region’s sub-national transport body.
Chairman Sir John Peace said HS2 would free up 700 services a day by creating extra capacity on lines serving Shropshire, the West Midlands and Staffordshire.
He said: “It will vastly improve journeys for millions of commuters who use the existing network.
“HS2 is the only shovel-ready infrastructure project that can future-proof our rail network, keep rail travel affordable and bring our country together in an environmentally-sustainable way.
“We must now get on delivering this once-in-a-century upgrade of our rail network to level up the economy and unleash the potential of the Midlands and the North.
“HS2 is already a catalyst for huge regeneration in Birmingham city centre; now, we can get on with bringing the same transformation to the areas around the other Midlands’ HS2-connected stations – the Interchange near Solihull, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, the East Midlands HS2 Hub station at Toton and Chesterfield.”
Paul Faulkner, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive added: “We must press ahead with transport projects including HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Engine Rail that will spark economic benefits, contribute to a low-carbon future and achieve a more even distribution of wealth.”