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Campaigners form breakaway group calling for rethink on HS2

Staffordshire | News | Published:

They have spent years trying to stop HS2 in its tracks – but now campaigners have formed a new group pushing alternative plans for a high speed rail line.

Villagers in Staffordshire have been battling the route since it was announced in 2009, arguing miles of valuable countryside would be lost and that the cost was too high.

But now Trevor Forrester, who was one of the leaders of the Staffordshire Against HS2 group, has joined up with other campaigners to form Rethink HS2.

The new campaign is being launched in Birmingham this afternoon and focuses on the proposals for an alternative line drawn up by the High Speed UK group.

Other campaign groups like Stop HS2 will continue, and Mr Forrester said he hopes to work with them too.

HSUK insists its proposals are £20 billion cheaper and would improve journeys on 498 key routes – instead of just 44 routes if HS2 is built.

Engineering and rail experts have drafted the detailed plans and Mr Forrester, of Ingestre, says the Rethink HS2 group will focus on getting the Government to see it as a viable alternative.

He admits hopes of getting David Cameron and George Osborne to scrap HS2 have faded, so says campaigners should now try to limit the damage that will be done by high-speed rail. It comes after the Chancellor announced on Monday that the Birmingham to Crewe stage of HS2 that will run through Staffordshire will be completed six years early, in 2027, while the total cost of the project has risen to £55bn. Mr Forrester argues HSUK is more environmentally friendly as it avoids cutting through untouched countryside by running alongside the M1 for most of the route

And he says by travelling at 223mph rather than HS2's speed of 250mph, it can easily avoid beauty spots that HS2 would tear through.

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Mr Forrester said: "Osborne and Cameron are intent on having this line that runs through the centre of England but a team of experts in their feld have come up with plans that are much cheaper, not as environmentally damaging and generally more efficient.

"It's really interesting and this is definitely the way forward now if we are going to reduce the impact of high speed rail on our communities."

Under HSUK's plans, a new high-speed route would be built from Glasgow to London, through Newcastle, along with two spurs – one to Liverpool and Manchester, and the other to Birmingham.

But high-speed trains would also run on existing lines on a huge network that takes in towns and cities across the country, including Wolverhampton and Stafford, unlike HS2, which would only stop at Stafford.

Rethink HS2 is being launched at Birmingham Fabian Society in the Priory Rooms, Bull Street, at 2.30pm today, with talks from campaigners, followed by a social in the Woodman pub in New Canal Street from 5pm.

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