South West MPs in HS2 support threat

Dawlish The debate at Westminster Hall in London centred on the severe flooding and storm damage to the South West, including the main railway line at Dawlish

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MPs from flood and storm ravaged constituencies said they would refuse to support the HS2 rail line unless major improvements were made to the West Country railway network.

The prospect was raised during a Westminster Hall debate on the impact of recent weather in the South West.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw suggested MPs could vote together to undermine the project.

Minister Dan Rogerson said there had been investment in the region.

MPs don't always follow through on threats to vote against government legislation.

Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, who hinted he might oppose HS2 today, also threatened to vote against the Local Government Finance Settlement but ended up falling into line when it came to the vote earlier this month.

There is also no likelihood of HS2 being derailed by a South West revolt, however big, as Labour currently support it as well.

But a rebellion against such a major plank of government policy would be viewed very dimly by the government whips.

Dan Rogerson declined to commit new money to funding major new rail infrastructure in the South West until Network Rail has produced its report into the options, which is expected by June or July.

The main railway line, which links Cornwall and much of Devon to the rest of the UK, was left hanging in the air after storms smashed the sea wall at Dawlish. It is unlikely to reopen before April.

'Second class rail service'

Mr Bradshaw told the debate: "I can tell the minister... that it is politically really difficult in my view, for any South West MP to vote for any more funds for HS2 until we have a firm commitment to address our rail problems first."

Gary Streeter, a Conservative MP for South West Devon, said he wanted funds to provide an alternative line to the South West, which would bypass the troubled stretch of track at Dawlish.

"It's very hard I think to get all members of Parliament to sign up for something like this because there's different agendas running," he said.

"But I agree in theory that there's enough members of Parliament in Devon and Cornwall, and possibly Somerset and further afield, who could make a real impact if we were to act collectively on this."

Network Rail has said it is considering five route options after the South West link was destroyed by storms.

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