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07.09.12

MP resigns from Government to fight HS2

A Government whip who resigned this week says he did it because he wants the freedom to speak out against HS2.

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant, who has been a whip for the Conservatives since 2005, told local reporters: “As a Government minister, I’ve been constrained and unable to raise certain issues publicly. It’s been hugely frustrating. Most importantly of all, I want to be able to raise issues in the House of Commons Chamber that directly affect the daily lives of my constituents. One such issue is HS2.

“I strongly believe the route of the high speed line is completely wrong. In my view, the route should not carve its way through unspoiled countryside. It will cause environmental damage not only to southern Staffordshire, but also other sensitive areas like the Chilterns.

“With a rethink on the third runway at Heathrow, it’s now even more important that the route be re-assessed.”

HS2 is hugely controversial in Lichfield: the district council is one of 15 councils making a joint legal challenge against the line, and will make its case at a seven-day hearing of the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division from December 3.

Fabricant said he favoured an earlier Conservative proposal for high-speed rail, the so-called M40/M6 route, which he said “would minimise the environmental impact and avoid Lichfield district which has had more than its fair share of infrastructure projects over the years.”

He added: “It is strange we have adopted Labour Government’s planned route which, it would seem, was designed to damage as much countryside as possible. I will do all that I can to ensure the route is changed back to the original route when it is considered by the House of Commons Bill Committee when it sits in 2013 and beyond.”

Prime Minister David Cameron called Fabricant a “real star” and said he could “quite understand” his decision to quit.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Mark Hardinge   22/01/2013 at 16:52

Dear Sirs, I was very interested to read your comments on the HS2 route. I agree that there is much wrong with the proposed route. Since it needs many tunnels it is £10 billion more expensive. Also when the trains travel in these tunnels they have to go at about half speed, adding over 20% to the journey time! One central problem with the proposed route is an obsession with linking the high-speed line to Heathrow airport. (A Heathrow connection was in the original HS2 remit.) This goes against the ethos of high-speed lines, which is to run in competition with airports, taking people away from them. In both Japan and France the high-speed networks have no connection with their major airports. The great success of these networks shows how wrong-headed a Heathrow connection is. I have been in touch with the Department of transport, many MPs, papers and technical people, but no one seems willing to see further than the bureaucratic inertia of the HS2 proposals. (Some local papers, Professional Engineering and Rail Staff have published my letters.) Extending the HS2 railway line from Stratford through the Lee valley to Ware, Welwyn Garden City, Luton and Milton Keynes is a much better route because it will pass close to modern industrial cities, which would benefit from the HS2 and will save ruining much loved countryside. It also saves much money by not duplicating a London HS2 station. Since there are so many benefits to this alternative route, I do feel it ought to be discussed openly, hopefully preventing adopting the recently proposed system which is second rate and vastly more expensive. I am sure that publicising this alternative route would do the country and many people a big favour. Yours sincerely, Mark Hardinge

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