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High speed rail row puts cities and shires on collision course

High speed rail row puts cities and shires on collision course

🕔17.Jun 2013

HS2The battle lines are drawn on the subject of high speed rail as MPs prepare for a crucial vote on the HS2 paving bill, and in the West Midlands a passionate debate is pitching urban areas against the shires.

It’s highly likely the Government will get approval for the second reading of the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill on June 26 thanks to cross-party support, although as many as 50 Tory MPs are expected to vote against the £17 billion line from London to Birmingham and a second phase Y-shaped route to Leeds and Manchester.

Metropolitan areas like Birmingham are backing HS2, which they see as a driver to create jobs and boost the local economy, while rural areas like Warwickshire and Staffordshire oppose the project on the twin grounds that the 225-mph trains will wreck the countryside and that the network will fail to provide much of the economic stimulus promised by the Government.

There have been some late developments. Coventry City Council has withdrawn its opposition to HS2 following the election of a new council leader, Ann Lucas, who ousted veteran left-winger John Mutton at last month’s annual Labour group meeting.

Coventry’s concern had been that it will miss out on any economic benefits to flow from HS2 because the high speed trains will not stop in the city, hurtling past instead on a new line to the south-west. In a blow to local pride, Coventrians wishing to use the new service were told they would have to travel to the nearest HS2 interchange some 12 miles down the A45 at Birmingham International.

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