Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today admitted he expected opposition to the plan to expand the high speed rail link between Birmingham and the north of England – but he insisted the proposal was essential to build rail capacity.
Homeowners in large parts of Staffordshire will be among those affected by the proposed new route.
The first phase of the line linking London to Birmingham is due to be completed by 2026 and will finish just north of Lichfield, where it will connect to the second phase to head north past Little Haywood near to Rugeley before passing to the east of Stafford and then on towards Stoke-On-Trent.
The Government is braced for a fresh backlash from rural communities through which the line will pass and some controversy over the chosen location of stations in northern cities.
Former Cannock Chase councillor Mr McLoughlin said: “One knows that you are going to upset a number of people because the route will go through their area and that will be annoying for them and you will get opposition to it.
“But I think, overall, one has got to look at the long-term chances for the United Kingdom. This is the first railway to be built north of London for 120 years.
“The easy thing for the Government would be not to do this. It isn’t just about journey time – it is actually about capacity, it’s about making sure that all those services people are calling for we are able to develop services later on for.”
The new route will have five stops, one in Manchester, alongside the existing Piccadilly station; Manchester Airport at the interchange by the M56 between Warburton Green and Davenport Green; the East Midlands – at Toton, between Nottingham and Derby; Sheffield, at Meadowhall shopping centre; and Leeds, at New Lane in the South bank area of the city.
Prime Minister David Cameron today welcomed the announcement saying: “Linking communities and businesses across the country and shrinking the distances between our greatest cities, high speed rail is an engine for growth that will help to drive regional regeneration and invigorate our regional economies. It is vital that we get on board the high-speed revolution. We are in a global race and this Government’s decision to make high speed rail a reality is another example of the action we are taking to equip Britain to compete and thrive.
“High speed rail is a catalyst that will help to secure economic prosperity across Britain, rebalance our economy and support tens of thousands of jobs.”
Councils in cities in the north of England which will be served by HS2 have welcomed the announcement as “excellent news” but said they also want to see a “significant Government package of investment” in onward links. Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield said: “It will strengthen Leeds’ position as the northern transport hub and unlock major investment, job opportunities and connectivity to the rest of the country.
“HS2 could be pivotal in driving our plans to regenerate the city centre’s South Bank but the Government needs to ensure any disruption to communities is minimised during construction.”
However, Conservatives in Chancellor George Osborne’s Tatton constituency have already indicated that they will object to any plans to route the line through parts of the Cheshire countryside.
The High Court is considering whether the first phase of the project, which will take high-speed trains from London to Birmingham, is legally flawed and needs reviewing.
The challenge was taken to the court by campaigners, including Lichfield Council, which accused the Government of failing to undertake a “strategic environmental assessment” or arrange an adequate consultation process.
Labour backs HS2 but fears the timetable for delivering it is slipping.
A proposed spur to Heathrow has been put on hold pending the results of a review on airport capacity.