HS2 trains will stop at Stafford
High-Speed trains will stop at Stafford, the boss of the controversial HS2 project said today as he unveiled his vision for the controversial line.
The Government today paved the way for a high-speed rail service from Stafford to Birmingham and London.
Reaffirming their commitment to HS2, the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Transport Secretary confirmed the £50bn project would link to the West Coast Main Line to allow hybrid high-speed trains to stop at Stoke - slashing the current 1 hour 20 minutes journey time to under an hour.
The Prime Minister and the Chancellor also announced plans for a quicker route between Manchester and Leeds - dubbed HS3 - to bring greater economic benefits to the north.
Mr Cameron said: "This is not about one project but about an overall plan to transform Britain.
"First today we made a massive reaffirmation in capacity and connectivity and discussed some of those arguments about journey times.
"It is the right project and right structure which is the right approach.
"Secondly there is a real vision behind us. This vision of HS3, which is very exciting, is in terms of linking our great cities together."
Mr McLoughlin told the Express & Star that Stafford - and Staffordshire - would benefit from the connection between the West Coast Main Line and HS2 at Handsacre: "The connectivity that we need to see is to some places that feel they are being left out, and that is very important.
"The Handsacre link is in the Bill and is part of the scheme.
"I am a Midlander, I was born and grew up in there and its pains me that you can get a high-speed service from London to Paris but you cannot to Birmingham or the Midlands - so I am glad that this is part of it."
Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2, also wants to see the line through Staffordshire built six years earlier and operational by 2027 instead of 2033.
Under the plans, trains would come off the £50 billion high speed line at Lichfield and join up with the West Coast Mainline, travelling through Stafford and Stoke.
The nine-mile stretch, known as the Handsacre link, was at one point expected to be axed to speed up construction. But bosses say it will now stay, arguing that it will help link HS2 to other towns and cities including Macclesfield and Stockport.
Sir David has now ordered a review to look at making the link through Stafford a reality. Hybrid trains, which are capable of travelling at regular speeds and also up to 250mph on the high speed line, would be used.
Sir David said: "Faster, more reliable, less congested services will make it easier for individual cites to pool the skills, talent and other elements they need to thrive in the knowledge economy – and to have access to their markets, whether they are local, national or international. Connectivity equals jobs. In my view, it is that simple.
"Put simply, cutting the journey time from London to Manchester from 128 minutes to 68, or from London to Leeds from 132 minutes to 83 makes it more likely that more businesses will base themselves in the north and that existing firms will prosper.
"And the same is true along the route. The journey time, for instance, between Birmingham and Leeds, the centres of Britain's largest two manufacturing regions, would shrink from 118 minutes to just 57.
"The effect should be transformational. The result should be not a zero sum game in which London loses out to the Midlands and the north, but a situation in which London grows sustainably, and the Midlands and the north achieve their full potential. The country's productivity will rise as a whole."
Trains heading from the north would stop at Stafford on the West Coast Mainline before linking up with HS2 in Lichfield as part of an hourly service to and from London.
Bosses at HS2 also say an extra service from Lichfield to London per hour will be created because of extra capacity created by HS2.
Stafford council leaders say the link will bring a boost to the economy - but they insist they are still opposed to the project as a whole.
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