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We will only back HS2 if city benefits

Staffordshire | News | Published:

The controversial multi-billion pound HS2 rail line will be backed by a West Midlands council, it has been agreed – on condition that it benefits the area.

Council chiefs in Wolverhampton have given their support to the rail line, which links London and Birmingham.

But a letter drafted by the authority has been changed to make it more explicit that the scheme must benefit the city.

Cabinet members said they felt the draft letter, which said there would be 'clear and demonstrable economic benefits to the West Midlands region', needed to be clearer.

They wanted to reiterate that the city council's support came with the caveat that HS2 must benefit Wolverhampton.

Councillor Peter Bilson, cabinet member for regeneration, said: "We are sure there will be economic benefits for Wolverhampton and the West Midlands, as it will release capacity on the West Coast Mainline.

"But we want to make it clear our backing comes with the caveat that this is the case and that the routes between Wolverhampton and London improve as a result of this. We don't want a decision to be made where trains on the West Coast Mainline bypass Wolverhampton, or services are reduced. We want people to be able to get on a train here and go directly to London. We decided to alter the letter to make sure this is on the record."

The city's opposition Conservative group has also backed plans for the high-speed railway.

Councillor Neville Patten said: "Wolverhampton has a rich tradition with the railways because of our location.

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"We have been home to facilities supporting the rail network for decades and HS2 represents an excellent opportunity to renew that role."

HS2 is expected to create a 13 per cent rise in demand at Wolverhampton Railway Station by 2036.

It comes as Chinese railway builders said they want to provide a rail line linking up to high speed rail.

China Railway Group has written to Birmingham City Council and to Birmingham Airport to say it is prepared to take on the task in the West Midlands.

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The company's president Mengo Zhou said it was responding to a report by MPs suggesting there was a need for more rail links to take people to HS2.

Meanwhile, a huge housing development just one mile from the proposed line in Staffordshire has been approved.

Hundreds of homes will be built on green fields west of Walton.

The site is also just one mile from the preferred route of HS2, which is due to run parallel with the M6, before crossing the motorway at Swynnerton.

The new development was given approval at a meeting of Stafford Borough Council's planning committee but has been criticised by residents.

l In last week's Express & Star it was mistakenly stated that the above scheme for 500 homes was proposed for Walton-on-the-Hill in Stafford, when it was in fact Walton in Stone. We happy to correct this and apologise for any confusion caused.

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