Minister Braced for HS2 Backlash

Eurostar200x110Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin admitted he was braced for a backlash when the proposed route of a controversial new high-speed rail line is revealed next week.
He told critics the Government would do “as much as we can to alleviate the damage” but urged them to recognise new stations would be “great engines for regeneration”.
Details are due to be published on Monday of exactly where twin extensions of the planned London to Birmingham HS2 line will pass through on their way to Manchester and Leeds.
The 225mph passenger train – expected to cut journey times from the capital to Manchester to just 80 minutes – is one of the coalition’s priority projects as it seeks to kick-start economic growth.
The announcement will come after figures showed on Friday that the economy shrank 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2012 and may be headed for an unprecedented triple-dip recession.
Costing £32.7 billion in total, the project is expected to be finished by 2033.
Around two-thirds (64%) of business leaders surveyed last August said the proposed London to Birmingham HS2 line would help their ability to grow their companies.
But the first tranche of the scheme has also proved controversial, especially in picturesque Tory heartlands which will be affected, such as the Chilterns, infuriating MPs and countryside campaigners.
Residents there will not enjoy the economic or personal benefits of a station and some have opposed the project on environmental grounds.
The new line is expected to pass through the Tatton constituency of Chancellor George Osborne in Cheshire.
Mr McLoughlin told the Telegraph: “I’m afraid we will upset some people, but I appreciate that and we’ve got to try and do as much as we can to alleviate the damage wherever we can.
“You can’t build a brand new line and not have problems. There will be some areas where you are going to have to negotiate.
“But we will be announcing several new stations which I think will be great engines for regeneration, and I think by us announcing it now, the local authorities on the route can plan and get the best advantage out of High Speed 2.”
The Department for Transport had improved efforts at “mitigating environmental disaster”, he said – such as ensuring trackside trees were planted early enough that they were mature when the trains began running.
Experts have speculated that the northern extension of the line will see trains stop at Toton, between Derby and Nottingham, as it heads up to the eastern side of the Pennines before arriving through a tunnel in Leeds city centre via the Meadowhall shopping centre outside Sheffield.
On the western side of the Y-shape, the trains are expected to go straight up to Manchester Piccadilly and airport stations, although a stop in Cheshire has been suggested as a possibility.
Railways expert Dr John Disney, of Nottingham Trent University, said: “This is the first major development of the railway system since Victorian times, so it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It is a great shame we cannot build it faster as countries like China are creating high-speed lines at a much faster rate.
“In Victorian times these lines would have been built in four or five years as there was a huge pool of cheap labour without the kind of planning regulations we have today.
“The new trains will bring the Midlands and the northern economy closer to London and the south-eastern economic heartlands – although whether it will generate investment in the Midlands and the north is debatable.”
Lord Astor, a Conservative peer and stepfather of the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron, joined Tory opposition to the network when it was unveiled by then transport secretary Justine Greening.
The then Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan faced criticism for selling a home close to the planned rail route two months before the Government approved it.
Construction of HS2’s £16.4 billion first phase was given the go-ahead in January last year, with 2026 earmarked as that part of the line’s opening date.
The line will see 400 metre-long trains capable of holding 1,100 passengers get from London to Birmingham in just 45 minutes.
Penny Gaines, chair of the Stop HS2 campaign, said: “We will be looking at the new proposals very closely over the next few days.
“The basic principles for the first phase of HS2 were wrong.
“Tweaks in the second phase do not change this and cannot make up for the environmental damage and destruction from HS2 between London and Birmingham.
“We are firmly of the opinion that the whole HS2 project is fundamentally flawed.
“It should be cancelled as soon as possible so that we can concentrate on developing the transport infrastructure that will bring more benefits to more people than a fast train for fat cats.”

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