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Stop spending on Bescot sleeper factory during HS2 review - Tom Watson

By Jamie Brassington | Sandwell | Politics | Published:

Tom Watson has called on the Government to halt funding of a proposed sleeper factory until an ongoing HS2 review is complete.

An artist's impression of the planned sleeper factory next to the M6

Network Rail wants to build the factory on land at Bescot sidings freight yard, next to the M6 on the Wednesbury and Walsall border, but residents have complained this would increase noise, pollution and congestion.

The factory would replace a recently closed one in Washwood Heath, Birmingham, which is being demolished to make way for HS2.

The Government announced the launch of an independent review into HS2 last month on the back of spiralling costs.

Mr Watson has argued that, as the proposed factory and HS2 are linked, funding of the factory should be halted until the review ends.

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The West Bromwich East MP and deputy Labour leader said: “The public have been misled about the cost of HS2. New government figures show it to be an eye watering £20 billion over budget and delayed by seven years.

“The proposed concrete sleeper factory at Bescot only exists because we were told there was an urgent need to move from its current site due to HS2.

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“Last week the Government announced its own review of the project.

Tom Watson

“All additional spending on the sleeper factory should be halted, until the outcome of the review.

“Network Rail is throwing good money after bad. This project is a public spending disaster.”

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But a Department for Transport spokesman said the Government does not want to delay HS2 while the review takes place.

This means that no preparatory work – such as the sleeper factory – will be halted either.

The spokesman said this would be to avoid further delays if a decision is made to continue with HS2 after the review.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Building our own sleeper facility run on a franchise basis at Bescot provides better value for the taxpayer and secures Network Rail’s own supply chain.

"While the impact of HS2 on the privately run Washwood Heath sleeper plant is a driver to build our own facility, it is not the sole reason.

"As our detailed planning application sets out, the former rail yard at Bescot is perfectly placed at the heart of the country to transport sleepers by rail right to where they need to be.”

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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