HS2: Transport minister says 'upset' is inevitable

Patrick McLoughlin
Image caption,
Patrick McLoughlin believes HS2 will be an 'engine for regeneration'

It is inevitable a new rail line will cause "upset", the transport secretary has said, ahead of Monday's unveiling of the next stage of the HS2 project.

Patrick McLoughlin is expected to outline plans to extend the £33bn line to Manchester and Leeds.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "You can't build a brand new line and not have problems."

Phase one, between London and Birmingham, has been widely opposed by resident and wildlife groups.

On HS2, travelling at speeds of up to 250mph, passengers will be able to commute from Birmingham to London in 49 minutes, reducing the journey time by almost half from one hour and 24 minutes.

A Birmingham to Leeds journey will be reduced from two hours to 57 minutes and a Manchester to London journey from two hours and eight minutes to one hour and eight minutes.

Connections to existing lines should then cut journey times between London, and Edinburgh and Glasgow, to three-and-a-half hours.

'Alleviate damage'

A consultation on the second phase will begin in early 2014, with a final route chosen by the end of that year.

In the interview Mr McLoughlin said the Department for Transport had got better at "mitigating environmental disaster" and stressed that efforts were being made to reduce the line's impact.

"I'm afraid we will upset some people, but I appreciate that and we've got to try and do as much as we can to alleviate the damage wherever we can," he said.

"You can't build a brand new line and not have problems. There will be some areas where you are going to have to negotiate.

"But we will be announcing several new stations which I think will be great engines for regeneration, and I think by us announcing it now, the local authorities on the route can plan and get the best advantage out of High Speed 2."

Opponents have challenged the government's economic argument, suggesting the costs will be greater than estimated, while the benefits will be lower than forecast.

Joe Rukin, of the Stop HS2 campaign group, said the new rail line would cause "abject misery".

"People find that their homes have been devalued and countryside woodland and wildlife havens are to be destroyed for no good reason other that lining the pockets of the construction industry," he said.

Route re-think plea

"If the government had come up with a plan which was needed, or was in the national interests, there wouldn't be so much opposition.

"But what they will find is that masses more people will be saying 'stop HS2' because there is no business case, no environmental case and no need whatsoever for this fast train for fat cats," Mr Rukin added.

BBC political correspondent Susana Mendonca said Monday's announcement was likely to put Mr McLoughlin on a collision course with some Conservative MPs.

"He faces a backlash in Tory heartlands where some MPs are threatening to rebel over the issue," our correspondent said.

The Y-shaped extension to the line is likely to pass through Chancellor George Osborne's Cheshire constituency, Tatton.

Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen, said the plans could cost local jobs in his constituency and he has urged the transport secretary to rethink the route.

"It's all well and good for Patrick McLoughlin... to say that some people are going to be upset but it's all for the greater good but at the end of the day it's my constituents in North West Leicestershire who are going to be upset," he said.

"They are going to have all the pain and none of the gain. It's not Patrick McLoughlin's constituents in Derbyshire Dales."

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