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Lichfield MP tells rail campaigners not to ‘bury their heads in the sand’

Lichfield’s MP is urging campaigners fighting a proposed high-speed rail line to look at alternative routes and not just gamble on the project being abandoned.

The planned route would see a viaduct built across parts of the city and also see the new route cut across rural land around Lichfield.

Michael Fabricant MP

Michael Fabricant MP

But local campaigners from The Lichfield Action Group have accused the Conservative MP of changing his stance on the HS2 scheme and have continued their calls  for the complete abandonment of the project.

However, Mr Fabricant has denied their claims and warned them not to “bury their heads in the sand” on the issue.

He explained:

“I know that many individuals and organisations would like to see the Government drop the whole HS2 scheme and I can well understand that point of view.  If constituents write to me expressing this view I will, of course, pass on all these representations to the very heart of Government.  I have already questioned the viability of HS2 with both the Treasury and the Department of Transport and they know my personal concern.

“But we also have to be practical. It is absolutely vital that local individuals and organisations don’t bury their heads in the sand simply relying on the Government dropping the whole scheme.  This might not happen.  In that event, it is important that in parallel to the campaign to abandon the HS2 project, local campaigners should agree an alternative route that will reduce the environmental impact on local towns, villages, and countryside.  I hope that the LAG and other campaigners can work closely with the local council who in turn are liaising with the Leader of Warwickshire County Council who has formed an action group to agree an alternative route.

“One voice with one alternative route will have far more impact with Government and the Inspectors than many disparate voices each arguing for alternative and conflicting routes.  It would be a such a wasted opportunity if that were to happen.  I hope we don’t blow it.”

Mr Fabricant’s comments arrive on the back of criticism from LAG.

Iain Sands, LAG chairman, claimed the Conservative MP had shifted his stance away from completely opposing the line to re-routing it instead.

In an email exchange with Mr Fabricant, Mr Sands said:

“In your news release of July 16, you stated that you were against the HS2 Rail link and that there were no economic reasons adding that we should be spending the money better elsewhere. What has changed since then?”

However, the Lichfield MP insisted that he had not altered his views and vowed to carry forward the views of local residents.

And he believes everything is still to play for on the subject of HS2. The Lichfield MP explained:

“The official consultation for the route will commence early in 2011.  We still have four or five months to agree an alternative route to present eventually to the Inspectors, so it’s still early days.  John Castle, the HS2 Route Engineer, made it very clear to me in a conference I had last week with them that HS2 are open to suggestions and no rail route has been fixed.

“But I can only be a facilitator in all this.  I am not a track engineer. And while I have expressed my personal view that the viaduct over the south-east of Lichfield is unacceptable, it will be up to the community as a whole to propose an alternative route working with qualified engineers.  Meanwhile, I have persuaded Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, to come to Lichfield next week to see for himself what disruption the HS2 will cause.”

Mr Fabricant will join local residents at a public meeting on the issue of HS2 being hosted by LAG at Boley Park Community Hall on October 1.

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  1. Streethay Swampy

    28th September, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Surely an alternative route will just push the problem onto someone else, isn’t this NIMBYISM? The main reason for fighting the cause is the extravigant waste of money which could be of better use to fund such things as education and health, both areas of which have been hit it the so called “cost savings”
    Also do we really need another high speed rail route, we’ve already got one and that is losing money. Invest in what we have already got by improving the rolling stock.

  2. Neil

    4th October, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary has today announced that the government is supportive of the plans although the routes have yet to be finalised (via formal consultation).