Labour transport minister: HS2 'absolutely vital'
The impending high-speed rail link between London and the West Midlands will be 'absolutely vital' according to a leading Labour MP.
Lilian Greenwood, Labour's shadow transport secretary, praised HS2 during a visit to the Black Country.
She made the comments as she was at Dudley bus station to view a fleet of new National Express buses as well as discuss the region's transport with West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson.
Ms Greenwood said she and the Labour party were 'delighted' that the plans were pressing ahead, and detailed the importance of the high-speed rail link to 'the economy of Birmingham and the West Midlands'.
She said: "Obviously we are really delighted that the HS2 build for the route from London to the West Midlands passed its third reading.
"It is going to be absolutely vital for providing the capacity we need for our transport or railway network. It obviously enables extra services to be open and it will free up capacity to allow more commuter services which is really important for Birmingham, as a lot of people who travel in on trains that are overcrowded need that vital capacity.
"Also, of course, it will allow for more freight travel. At the moment freight and commuter services are being pushed off the network because we simply do not have enough capacity. That is why HS2 is so important to the economy of Birmingham and the West Midlands generally."
Pressed on the costs of HS2, which the Labour peer and former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said would continue for decades, Ms Greenwood admitted the Conservative government 'did not initially get a grip' with the finances of the project.
She said: "The government which came in in 2010 did not initially get a grip but now the project has a well established cost including a large contingency and they need to continue to monitor that. I am really proud that as a Labour shadow minister we improved the legislation to make sure there was a greater focus on keeping the cost under control and making sure it was kept on time so that the larger West Midlands economy, including the Black Country, gets the improvements it needs from the transport network."
Last week HS2 bosses dismissed claims that the project will be delayed, insisting that the first phase of the £55 billion project connecting London to Birmingham will be completed by the end of 2026.
The extension to Crewe through Staffordshire will be completed a year later.
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