Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly warns of ‘grave implications’ posed by HS2.

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03 Sep 2013

Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly has hit out at the proposed HS2 train line, warning that it has ‘grave implications’ for existing rail services in North Staffordshire.

Mr Farrelly said the new line would downgrade the existing West Coast Mainline and direct services linking Stoke-on-Trent to both Manchester and London.

He made his comments in a submission to a working party set up by Newcastle Borough Council which is investigating the potential impact of the proposed line, the likely costs of which have been estimated by the Institute for Economic Affairs as £80bn.

He has also forwarded the submission to the Government as his formal response to the current consultation on Phase 2 of HS2, the extension to Manchester and Leeds beyond Birmingham.

Describing the line as a ‘grandiose project’, Mr Farrelly said the funds would be better spent on improving the existing rail network, including restoration of the link between Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester Airport and investing in the Crewe-Derby line locally.

He also argued that nationally the debate about HS2 had been dominated by improving train times to London and said there was a danger this would further centralise Britain’s economy around the capital, to the detriment of the regions.

“As far as North Staffordshire is concerned, much of the debate locally has focused on the route and the desirability of having a stop here midway between Birmingham and Manchester, so that we do not become economically by-passed,” he said.

“Whilst I understand these concerns, I have repeatedly made it clear that it is unhelpful to produce maps suggesting possible locations for a possible North Staffordshire station without careful consideration and wide consultation,” he said.

But he warned that the debate had overlooked the ‘grave implications’ that HS2 would have on downgrading the existing West Coast Mainline and services between Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester and London.

“According to one recent forecast, the diversion of the lucrative Manchester-London business to HS2 would reduce direct services to Stoke on Trent from 31 a day to just three,” he pointed out.

The damaging knock-on effect of HS2 on the West Coast Mainline was also highlighted by Mr Farrelly and his fellow North Staffordshire MPs Joan Walley and Rob Flello when they met Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin earlier this summer.

“In our discussions with the Minister, we also pointed out that were a stop to be sited at or near Crewe – and with no HS2 spur from Stoke – journey times to London and elsewhere would actually increase,” he said.

Construction of the first phase of HS2 – the route from London to Birmingham – is due to start in 2017 with the first trains aiming to run by 2026. As it stands, the proposed route north of Birmingham currently skirts the edges of Mr Farrelly’s Newcastle constituency.

“While I do not have constituents flooding me with their fears and anxieties, I nevertheless sympathise greatly with residents, farmers and other business locally that have been affected by the environmental impact and blight these plans are causing. 

“I very much hope local people will take up their concerns directly with the Secretary of State who has promised that he will visit North Staffordshire,” said Mr Farrelly, who added: “For all these reasons I do not support HS2 as the plans stand.”