Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told MPs in the House of Commons that he had no doubt HS2 was right for the future of the UK before a Bill authorising funding in preparation for the £50 billion scheme was cleared.
The High Speed Rail Preparation Bill was favoured by 350 MPs last night, with just 34 voting against the scheme which will link London to the north and cut through parts of Staffordshire.
It will now go to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.
Outlining the Bill, Mr McLoughlin said: “Just this week with the storms that hit the south and the east, we have seen how crucial our railways are to national life. When trains are crowded and disrupted, life for hard-working people gets more difficult.”
Mary Creagh, shadow transport secretary, said she was proud to support HS2 but claimed the Government must ‘get a grip’ on the costs. She also spoke of her concerns, telling MPs: “The project has been put at risk by delays, project mismanagement and, in July, by a huge increase to the budget.”
But some MPs spoke less favourably.
Birmingham Hall Green MP Roger Godsiff said: “If there is no figure, to all intents and purposes we are signing a blank cheque.”
Tory MP Cheryl Gillan, representing the Chesham and Amersham constituency, also called HS2 an ‘expensive toy’.
And after voting in favour, Walsall North MP David Winnick said he had sympathy for those affected by the scheme but added: “I believe it’s in Britain’s overall interest and certainly in the interest of the West Midlands that the project goes ahead.”
Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris, who also supported the Bill, said: “It will bring a long-term economic benefit to the West Midlands and the Black Country. I think it is an essential infrastructure programme.”
Prime Minister David Cameron told the Express & Star: “We’re spending £73bn as a country on road and rail infrastructure. Yes, the £16bn on HS2 is a lot, but it is quite remarkable that we’re spending more than three times as much on other transport infrastructure.”