Government plan for new high-speed rail line could lead to poor service at Rugby station, says town MP Mark Pawsey

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A CONTROVERSIAL new high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham has been given the go-ahead by government today (Tuesday).

This first phase of High Speed Two (HS2) could be running by 2026, later extending to northern England.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening has announced extra tunnelling along the 90-mile (140km) first phase in response to environmental concerns.

The first phase of the project would cut London-Birmingham journey times, on 225mph trains, to 49 minutes.

This would be followed by a second phase of Y-shaped track reaching Manchester and Leeds by about 2033.

Following the announcement Rugby MP Mark Pawsey said he was against plans for high speed rail.

Mr Pawsey said: “I felt it was important to keep an open mind regarding the Government’s HS2 proposals when they were first announced and I have paid close attention to the arguments both for and against the scheme as the debate has progressed. I did not instinctively oppose the plans as I do see the need to improve our transport infrastructure in order to promote and stimulate growth in the country. I do not, however, believe that HS2 is the best way to achieve this.

“I have a real concern that the development of HS2 could lead to poorer services at a number of stations on the legacy West Coast Main Line, including Rugby. If the existing service is downgraded, Rugby trains could be reduced to ‘all station stoppers’ and the business attraction of a 50 minute link to London may be lost. Add this to the more immediate worry about the reliability of the existing services during the rebuilding of Euston station a few years from now, and local commuters have a right to be concerned about the future impact on their journeys.

“Moreover I do not see a sound business case for HS2, as many of the economic arguments in favour of it do not stand the test. For one thing I simply do not agree that all journey time on trains is wasted. Every time I travel by train I share carriages with people busily working on laptops, and a £32 billion enterprise should not be based on outdated knowledge. I also believe that there are cheaper alternatives available such as an improvement to the existing network. Capacity on the West Coast Main Line could increase simply by changing the mix of first and second class coaches and increasing the train length by adding more carriages.

“Having carefully considered all the business evidence, as well as the likely impact on Rugby, I must state that I am not supportive of the proposals and do not feel that they are justified in the present economic climate. I would like to reiterate that whilst I am fully supportive of the Government’s pro-growth and pro-development agenda, I do not feel that HS2 is an appropriate way to support these aims.”