Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant has told campaigners that he is “not a supporter of HS2” at a meeting.
The gathering saw discussion over the new proposed high-speed rail route which has removed the threat of a viaduct across parts of Lichfield – but seem the line moved closer to the village of Whittington.
And the area’s Conservative MP told villagers that he understood their concerns but admitted he was forced to make tough decisions when it came to the original route. Mr Fabricant explained:
“I had no choice but to act immediately and try and persuade the new Coalition Government to rethink the huge viaduct across Boley Park which would have directly affected hundreds of homes. Although the new preferred route will affect some homes, leisure amenities such as the Whittington Golf Course, and the countryside as a whole, it is still far less damaging than the route originally published by Labour before the General Election. It would have been totally irresponsible of me to have simply done nothing. But, of course, I would prefer it if HS2 were not necessary at all.
“And scare raising stories such as that of a new 100 foot high viaduct by Streethay, not only unnecessarily alarms people and is false, it gives the Government the clear impression that some anti-HS2 campaigners are driven by emotion and not clarity of thought. If HS2 goes ahead, there will, in fact, be a standard bridge across the A38 with the track less than 10 metres above the road before the approach to the A38 turn-off and some distance from Streethay itself. All this is clearly shown in the maps that have been published.
“But it will be for the national anti-HS2 campaign to muster powerful and numerate arguments using good barristers, economists specialising in transport policy, and consulting engineers to destroy the case for HS2. If they are able to demonstrate to all that there are cheaper, simpler, and less environmentally damaging alternatives to achieve the objectives of HS2, the anti-HS2 battle will be won. But mere empty posturing by campaigners and politicians alike will achieve nothing.”
The meeting lasted more than two hours and saw Mr Fabricant lay out his own views regarding the controversial issue of high-speed rail.
He told local protesters:
“As a United Kingdom Member of Parliament I must balance what is best for my constituency and that of the overall needs of our nation. So far, I have not seen convincing evidence of forecast rail demand that will require additional north-south HS2 tracks to be laid. But similarly, it is for national anti-HS2 campaigners to present their own rational and numerate predictions of future rail demand and how these might be met by using existing rail routes and transport corridors.
“It is still very early days. Next month a public consultation will be started into HS2 and the new preferred route. If that gives HS2 the go-ahead, then a special Hybrid Bill Committee of the House of Commons will be established in 2012 which will also take evidence in depth from all interested parties. This is a public inquiry procedure, is not whipped in the usual way, and will last a number of years. Whittington campaigners should tell the national anti-HS2 campaigns that in both processes, they should take the opportunity of presenting and justifying their own detailed forecasts of future rail demand and propose how this might be met if not by HS2.
“Neither those campaigning for, nor those who are against, HS2 have yet presented convincing arguments for their respective positions.”