High speed rail report 'raises questions' say opponents

A report into the government's proposed high-speed rail link (HS2) has raised unanswered questions about the plans, according to opponents of the project.

Stop HS2, which has its headquarters in Warwickshire, said the Transport Select Committee report listed a number of areas where the government's case for high-speed rail as currently proposed "falls down".

These included issues around the economic case for the line and the environmental impact, the campaign group said.

The committee of MPs compiled the report after speaking to people both for and against the proposed scheme, which would initially run between London and Birmingham.

'Not minor niggles'

Joe Rukin, co-ordinator of Stop HS2, said the report listed a number of areas where work was still needed in terms of "planning and appraising HS2 before deciding to proceed and shows there are many unanswered questions".

"There must be a delay in the decision while these concerns are addressed," he added.

Penny Gaines, chair of the campaign group, said: "The Transport Select Committee lists a number of major areas where the government's case for high speed rail as currently proposed falls down.

"These are not minor niggles, but cover huge policy areas."

Other West Midlands anti HS2 campaigners have also criticised the report.

Graham Long of Ladbroke Against HS2 said: "I'm just amazed that with so many substantial criticisms and recommendations for changes and further investigation that the committee has felt able to even tentatively recommend that HS2 proceed.

"The evidence is very much they shouldn't - we can improve the whole of our transport for far less cost much more quickly by simply improving the West Coast mainline, the Midlands mainline and the East Coast mainline."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We welcome the committee's report and note the support it shows for the need for a high-speed rail [HSR] network in Britain, and many of the proposals made in the government's consultation on HS2.

"The report provides a useful contribution to the debate on HSR and echoes a number of the messages coming out from the responses to the public consultation."

'Only option'

Chief executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Jerry Blackett, said: "We are clear that HS2 is the 21st Century solution to our creaking Victorian infrastructure.

"We must also stress the need for local transport investment to go alongside HS2 to increase the economic benefits and share them throughout the region.

"HS2 is the only viable option for Birmingham if we want to see the levels of growth, investment and job creation that will transform this city. "

HS2 has also been described as good for business in the Midlands by the Confederation of British Industry.

Richard Butler, from the confederation, said: "It's a bit of a no brainer. We really can't do without it.

"The West Midlands economy is suffering at the moment and a scheme like this will bring some real economic benefit to the area."

Gisela Stuart, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, who heads the all-party campaign in support of HS2, also highlighted the boost to business she believes the rail-link would bring.

She said: "If you look at successful economies across the world serious infrastructure for the transport system is essential and we haven't got that in this country.

"We're London-centric and we don't take enough account of the way we in the Midlands trade with the northeast and the northwest and that's what the rail link will open up."

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