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Scrapping of HS2 leg 'should benefit Staffordshire more' says councillor

A senior Staffordshire councillor has said the cancellation of the controversial HS2 line between Birmingham and Manchester should bring more transport benefits to the county.

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The potential HS2 train design

The Government’s announcement earlier this month that Phase 2a of the high speed rail line was being scrapped sparked anger from some regional leaders.

But HS2 was opposed by many residents in Staffordshire, concerned about the impact the line would have on the county’s countryside and farms, as well as local roads during the construction process. At this month’s cabinet meeting Staffordshire County Council’s leader and deputy leader highlighted opportunities to invest the money that would have been spent on HS2 on other infrastructure projects that would improve travel for residents.

Deputy leader Philip White said: “It is important to note that the cancellation of HS2 (Phase 2a) is a significant development for our county, both in terms of undoing some of the harm that has been caused in the south of the county with the construction activity HS2 has had ongoing for some time, and further north in the county where people have had properties compulsory purchased and have been worried about blight along that route with limited benefit for Staffordshire in terms of the economy and people. So it is good news to see a change in direction there, which should benefit Staffordshire more.

“The A50/A500 corridor is a key corridor not only for Staffordshire but for the wider region and the country. And it is pleasing that monies previously spent on HS2 has been liberated to invest there.

“In addition to that, the announcement around Network North has identified other projects in the county for key investment that we have needed upgrading for some time, particularly Junction 15 of the M6 at Newcastle, improvements to the A5 at Hinckley and Tamworth and also the reopening of the Leek to Stoke railway line – a very big engineering project when that does get underway – and the more straightforward opening of the Ivanhoe Line between Burton and Leicester to be reopened for passenger traffic. And we’ve more to come potentially.

“I wanted to reassure colleagues that although those announcements have been made already, we are actively lobbying Government in terms of further investment in what is a very busy county that carries a lot of the burden of national economic activity, particularly in terms of transport and logistics. We have some other fantastic investment opportunities the Government ought to consider and we are working hard now to highlight those other schemes with Government that we think would be of real benefit, both locally and to the country.”

Although the HS2 section north of Fradley, which would have passed through Stafford and Newcastle boroughs, has been scrapped following spiralling costs, Phase One, between London and Birmingham, is continuing. It is set to include a link to the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre, meaning there will still be a section in the south of the county.

Council leader Alan White said: “Although we have opposed HS2 from the outset, we have put in a lot of effort to minimise the impact on our people and county, and to maximise any economic benefits. We understand there must be a cost ceiling for major infrastructure projects, but HS2 has already had a significant, irreversible impact on Staffordshire.

“Completing Phase One as planned and delivering the promised shorter journey times for residents are essential and it is crucial to fulfil the wider growth plans for Stafford. We are watching closely for any indications of further investment in Midlands infrastructure projects, that could benefit people and businesses in Staffordshire.

“One of the projects we will argue for investment in is the A50/A500 corridor, stretching from Cheshire, through Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire into the East Midlands. Major manufactures along the corridor including JCB are at the leading edge of innovation in zero and low carbon power generation and transport.

“They are supported by academics at Keele University in particular. Government investment in transport, education and training, and new business sites along the A50/A500, can convert this corridor into a world-leading, zero carbon powerhouse.”