Newcastle MP warns of West Coast ‘Ghost Line’ after HS2
Paul Farrelly, Labour Member of Parliament for Newcastle, has given a stark warning to the government over the potential impact of the proposed new High Speed Rail network on local services from the mainline station at Stoke-on-Trent.
His remarks, which followed a meeting held last night between North Staffordshire MPs and Transport Secretary Pat McLoughlin, came during today’s debate on the paving Bill for HS2 in the House of Commons.
The plans have already blighted swathes of Stafford and Stone, through which the proposed route of the new line will run.
Controversy locally over where a stop between Birmingham and Manchester will be located – Crewe is proposed, not Stoke, or anywhere immediately nearby – has recently been heightened by reports that direct West Coast Mainline services from Stoke to London will be decimated when HS2 gets up and running.
Local councils, as well as the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, have already warned of the detrimental effect of reduced services from Stoke, a message Mr Farrelly and Stoke MPs Joan Walley and Rob Flello reinforced at their meeting with the Secretary of State yesterday.
Pointing out that these concerns are shared up and down the line, during the debate, Mr Farrelly asked the Transport Secretary:
‘He will understand that is difficult for North Staffordshire MPs to support HS2, as it stands, when it may reduce trains from Stoke-on-Trent to London for 31 to just three a day.’
‘This knock-on issue about HS2 affects people from Stockport to Coventry on the West Coast Mainline, too.’
‘What assurances can the Secretary of State give that this will not in practice happen, that the West Coast will become just a ‘ghost line’, running skeleton direct services to London?’
In response, Mr McLoughlin assured MPs that all these issues would be looked at by the Government, reiterating his intention that HS2 should be about increasing overall capacity rather than reducing it.
Mr McLoughlin has also agreed to visit North Staffordshire in the near future to discuss concerns about HS2 further.
The formal public consultation over the proposed route is due to open after the summer.