Train effigy burns as HS2 campaigners step up fight

An effigy of a train has been burnt as campaigners stepped up their fight against HS2 in Staffordshire.

Train effigy burns as HS2 campaigners step up fight

Angry residents in the county have vowed to do all they can to halt the controversial scheme and pledged to continue their campaigning to stop the route cutting through swatches of Staffordshire countryside if it is built.

It comes after transport bosses pledged to press ahead with plans to include a Stafford link in the project which would see trains on the route between London and the north of England to run through the county town.

Sir David has also said he wants to see the line through Staffordshire built six years earlier and be operational by 2027 instead of 2033.

A man is silhouetted against the flames

Under the proposals, 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 will help link HS2 to other towns and cities including Macclesfield and Stockport.

Sir David has ordered a review to look at making the link through Stafford a reality.

A second phase of the scheme would also see a link between Fradley and Crewe as part of the Y-shaped phase two route for HS2 which will see the line taken north from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, with a completion date of around 2033. That route may be subject to change the Government announced last week though.

Defiant campaigners
Campaigners raise a cheer

Around 40 protesters from the Marston Against HS2 group gathered on a farm directly in the route of the proposed rail line.

A huge bonfire was lit at Sunny Hill Farm in Marston near Stafford which had a 16ft long effigy of a train positioned on top of it with the words: 'End of the line for HS2 and the bright sparks aboard.'

The effigy also featured photographs of Prime Minister David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Bob Gasch, from the campaign group, said: "The turnout was really good. We had about 40 people down on the farm.

"We wanted to make sure people are still aware that the fight against HS2 continues.

"It was also a fundraiser and we managed to collect £160. That will help to fund the campaign locally and nationally with things like court cases."

The rail line in its second phase is planned to cut through Marston, with several properties set to be bulldozed.

Robert Gasch from Marston Against HS2 with the bonfire

Meanwhile, the company behind HS2 has been accused of using 'strong arm tactics' to stop people from raising their objections to the £50 billion project.

Residents who fear their communities will be blighted by the planned 225mph rail line say they were visited at home by groups of HS2 officials and urged not to give evidence to a powerful parliamentary committee which can order major changes to the scheme.

The visits came after they submitted petitions to the HS2 Select Committee, which led them to be targeted by HS2 Ltd - the Government-funded company behind the scheme.

Grandmother Gill Stockdale, aged 66, appeared before the committee and revealed how four officials had tried to strike a deal with her in her living room after she raised objections about construction site lorries travelling outside the primary school attended by her granddaughter.

She claimed she was told that officials wanted to buy her off to prevent her from appearing before the committee.

Mrs Stockdale said that rather than money, a pedestrian crossing near the primary school in the village of Hill Ridware near Rugeley , close to where the first phase of the HS2 line will end had been offered.

She said: "They stated their intention clearly - they just wanted to shut me up."

HS2 last night denied any wrongdoing in its dealings with objectors.

A spokesman said: "We do not seek in any way to curtail people's right to appear before the Commons Committee. HS2 Ltd is seeking to resolve people's concerns before they go to Parliament."

HS2 will cut through swatches of Staffordshire countryside if it is built.

Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2, has said he wants to see the line through Staffordshire built six years earlier and be operational by 2027 instead of 2033.

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