Lichfield’s MP has warned that the battle surrounding plans for a high speed rail line through the region is reaching a “crucial” stage.
Michael Fabricant’s comments came as the Public Consultation Roadshow about HS2 prepares to travel along the proposed route and the Transport Select Committee begins a public inquiry into the business case behind the line.
And he has warned residents that this is the time to make their voices heard.
Mr Fabricant explained:
“The next few weeks will be crucial to the future of high speed rail and it is important that campaigners don’t blow it with inaccurate details. It is imperative that those campaigning against HS2, as well as those who support high speed rail, visit the roadshows organised by the Department for Transport not only to give their views to the officials, but also to learn in detail precisely how the track will cross the country. This should be a two-way learning process for both campaigners and the Department for Transport.
“It is particularly important that those opposing HS2 get their facts straight. Inaccurate talk by campaigners of viaducts where there are none or visual eyesores where the track will be buried will weaken their argument against HS2. It will result in their evidence not being taken seriously. There has been a lot of this of late which, while succeeding in whipping up local concern, has diminished the real evidence against HS2.”
Lichfield will be visited by the consultation roadshow on June 8 and 9 at the Guildhall. There will also be an opportunity to have a say at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on June 17 and 18.
And while residents will be airing their views, the Transport Select Committee will also be looking into the issue – and could have a considerable impact on the future of the HS2 scheme.
Mr Fabricant added:
“The House of Commons Transport Select Committee will take an independent look at the economic case for and against HS2. The range of the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry will be broad and will include a study of whether the West Coast Main Line could be improved instead.
“I managed to persuade the Chairman and members of the Committee to hold this inquiry after considerable lobbying. I know that the conclusions of the Committee will be very influential whichever way it goes. Downing Street will be looking very closely at their report when it is published later this year.
“I have already contacted Stop HS2, the Anti HS2 Alliance, and the Council for the Protection of Rural England informing them of this inquiry and suggesting that they provide both written and oral evidence to the Committee. I know they will now be doing so. The Department of Transport and the Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, will also be giving evidence with the counter arguments.
“The Whittington anti-HS2 group will also be presenting evidence to the Committee. I have seen a draft which is very articulate and puts the economic case well.”