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Star comment: HS2 offer will just hit the buffers

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

What will HS2 offer for Shropshire?

Oh, lots, if you listen to the advocates of this astronomically expensive project.

There will be benefits for local businesses, tourism, and so on, which will be spin-off benefits arising from the general fillip which will be given to the economy more widely. Everyone’s a winner.

That is what the supporters will have us believe. They may be right. But a lot of Salopians and others are going to take a lot of convincing.

A short film titled “HS2 Disaster” – you know where it’s coming from, then – has been watched by over 100,000 people in its first week.

HS2 Disaster

An accompanying petition calling for HS2 to be knocked on the head at once has already been signed by nearly 8,000 people.

The film claims the route will wreck the lives of families across vast swathes of the country, including Staffordshire. The second phase of the project will be right on north east Shropshire’s doorstep – or back yard, if you like – and villagers in Woore, near Market Drayton, are already worried about an invasion of construction lorries during the construction.

But any Salopian wanting to travel on one of the super-fast trains will have to travel so far to catch one that it will hardly be worth the bother. They may as well get an ordinary train. This is going to be the pattern after the flagship HS2 project is completed. Salopians will still be travelling on ordinary trains.

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And the list of complaints about the ordinary train service in the region is long. Overcrowded carriages, expensive tickets, generally inadequate services – just think of the improvements that could be made if the money being spent on HS2, which is officially put at between £41 billion and £56bn – and West Midlands MEP Jill Seymour claims will actually be closer to £111bn – was spent on ordinary trains.

An investment of billions in the trains and services that people currently travel on would have the potential to revolutionise them for the better.

This is the financial equation that will be operative in the minds of Salopian rail travellers as they weigh up HS2. When this project, so beloved by politicians and some business leaders, is completed, will it be of such enormous benefit that it will be worth the billions which were not spent on ordinary trains and services, but conceivably could have been had HS2 not gone ahead?

Or will HS2, and all its billions upon billions, simply bypass Shropshire, literally and financially, and just benefit some big cities through modestly quicker journey times?

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