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'You bet': WATCH as transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin backs six figure salaries for HS2 chiefs

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has defended six figure salaries for more than 20 high speed rail bosses.

And the Conservative minister said HS2 was 'not about speed' or cutting journey times as he defended the investment of between £42bn and £50bn.

Visiting the Express & Star's headquarters in Wolverhampton, former Cannock Chase councillor Mr McLoughlin said he hoped the Tories had ended 'the war on the motorist' and appealed for people to back Paul Uppal returning as MP for Wolverhampton South West, saying three Labour MPs and a Labour-controlled council in the city would be 'the last thing' people wanted.

More than 20 top HS2 officials are being paid six-figure salaries at the company behind Britain's proposed high-speed rail link.

But Mr McLoughlin said: "You're talking about the chief executive of a company that will be responsible for investing £42 billion.

"Do I want the best engineers working on HS2? You bet I want the best engineers. Do they cost money? You bet they cost money.

"I'm glad they're working in this country and not some other country improving their infrastructure. And I'm glad we're improving ours."

He said the Tories needed to give people 'positive reasons to vote': We've reduced the deficit by half. Unemployment is falling. Young people leaving school have opportunities with apprenticeships.

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"The British people could either decide who is Prime Minister, or Nicola Sturgeon could decide it. And I'd rather the British people decide, not the SNP and not (UKIP leader) Nigel Farage."

Mr Farage is against HS2 and said businesses backing it were mainly interested in lucrative contracts.

Mr McLoughlin said: "If Nigel Farage believes in the West Midlands we have the kind of infrastructure we need for the next 50 years, it just shows you.

"I'm a Midlander. We need to invest in our infrastructure.

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"You can go from Paris to Brussels on a high speed train but you can't go from Birmingham to Manchester on one.

"If we want to see freight increase, we need to increase capacity.

"That's what high speed rail is about. It's not about speed. It's not about getting from Birmingham to London 20 minutes quicker. Although if you ask people if they'd rather go by fast train or slow train, they'll say the fast train.

"It's about the capacity and making sure we have the right infrastructure."

Asked about speed cameras and penalties for hogging the middle Mr McLoughlin said: "I certainly hope we've ended the war on the motorist. We've relieved the way local authorities were penalising people for parking a few minutes more.

"Speeding can kill people. It's not catching people for doing something they shouldn't, it's about enforcing safety. I want to give motorists the freedom of using the roads.

"We're going to go to four lane running where possible."

Mr McLoughlin warned that Labour would not invest properly in transport if they return to office.

He said: "One of the real failures of the last Labour government was the failure to invest in infrastructure when they had the money and the opportunity to do so.

"They would not invest in our infrastructure in the future. That's where I have been lucky in the support I had from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor."

But he said he was confident the Conservatives would win as he urged voters in Wolverhampton South West to stick with them.

He said: "It breaks the balance of Wolverhampton being solely represented by the Labour party. You have a Labour council and two Labour MPs. The last thing you want is three."

But Mr Marris said: "I don't think he'd be saying this were the situation reversed. The city of Wolverhampton fared rather better when it had three Labour MPs than it has over the past five years."

Also standing in Wolverhampton South West are Andrea Cantrill (Green), Dave Everett (UKIP), Rob Marris (Lab)

and Neale Upstone (Lib Dem).

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