Consultation to launch over disruption caused by 'monstrous white elephant' HS2

Ministers are set to launch a consultation with residents in parts of the Midlands over the "extremely disruptive" impact of HS2 on their communities.

MPs are concerned about the disruption HS2 is causing to communities along the line
MPs are concerned about the disruption HS2 is causing to communities along the line

The move will see the views of people in Staffordshire and Shropshire sought over the controversial line, which is under construction despite delays and spiralling costs.

The consultation will see existing transport provision in both counties reviewed to determine whether adequate road and rail links exist to allow affected communities to benefit from HS2.

Residents will also be consulted on scheduled works and potential disruption to local routes.

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson MP said the Government had accepted an amendment from the Lords for additional consultation with residents in Shropshire and Staffordshire, as well as in Cheshire.

Speaking at a debate on the HS2 (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill in the Commons, Theo Clarke, the Conservative MP for Stafford, said HS2 "will be extremely disruptive for the people of Staffordshire".

She said the consultation – along with another amendment aimed at protecting ancient woodland – would "go some way" to addressing residents' concerns.

But Ms Clarke added there were a number of key issues with the line that needed to be addressed.

Disappointed

"At a time when Britain is leading the way on climate change and hosting COP26, we should not be seen to be cutting down trees, which is counter-productive," she said.

"Since my election, I have consistently represented my constituents with regard to HS2, and I remain extremely disappointed by the way they have been treated by HS2.

"The way that HS2 has behaved is simply unacceptable, and I am pleased that the Government are supporting the amendments and will consult with my constituents. It is right that they be listened to."

Ms Clarke said she was "very concerned" over the proposed railhead and maintenance base at Stone, the construction of which will see an increase in heavy goods vehicles and disruption on local roads.

She also warned that the line will disrupt routes including the A34, the A518, the A51 and the M6, "all of which will potentially cause more traffic for my constituents".

Shadow Railways Minister Tan Dhesi MP, said: “Time and again, the residents of Staffordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire are promised investment from the Government, but they have consistently failed to deliver."

He said consultation on the line up to now had been "poor" and cited the example of Woore in Shropshire, where parish councillors were now onto their fifth different HS2 official as a point of contact.

“On an issue that will impact their daily lives for years, that is simply unacceptable,” he said.

Damaging

Stone MP Sir Bill Cash – a long time opponent of HS2 – also backed the consultation, but said costs for the "monstrous white elephant" of HS2 had spiralled out of control.

He said the project had "already caused exceptional physical and social disruption in my constituency, which will receive no benefit from its construction".

"It has blighted my constituency down the line from top to bottom, wreaking havoc on the countryside and the value of properties and damaging the environment."

He added: "These amendments will assist in mitigating some of the problems, but nothing affects my objections in principle and the economic judgment that I have formed about this project as a whole, which I have voted against at every opportunity throughout its passage through Parliament."

John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley, said travel and work patterns had changed due to the pandemic, and called for the entire project to be reassessed.

He asked: "Given the astronomical sums involved, should there not be a pause and a reassessment, which could require a complete rethink of the project?

"We may have sunk a few billions – the sunk costs argument is always attractive and seductive but fundamentally wrong – but do we really want to continue to spend tens of billions more?"

In October the Department for Transport said Phase 1 of the line, from London to the West Midlands, was likely to cost around £45bn, while Phase 2 (West Midlands to Crewe) has a budget of £98bn.

In 2010 the cost of the entire project was estimated at £36bn.

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