Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Minister braced for HS2 backlash

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the proposed HS2 route will 'upset some people'

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has admitted he is 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 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 that the economy shrank 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2012.

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.

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.

Penny Gaines, chair of the Stop HS2 campaign, said: "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."

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport(Department for Transport)

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