HS2: Minister defends route plan

HS2 route

The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has the look of a foot soldier who has been lifted from the muddy trenches and into high command.

The Derbyshire Dales MP is a pretty likeable guy who carries a warm smile. He also has the appearance of a veteran politician who is panic-proof.

He'll need those qualities. He now has the job of steering through the case for the proposed routes of the UK's high speed rail services from Birmingham to the Northern cities.

But it's his East Midlands backyard that could become tricky.

Start Quote

There's no way you can build a major railway of the nature of HS2 without upsetting some people”

End Quote Patrick McLoughlin MP Transport Secretary

Tory colleagues in Leicestershire are outraged at the proposed route. Its county council leader Nick Rushton says for Leicestershire, it's all pain and no gain.

"I realise that part of the link will be unpopular. It is inevitable," Mr McLoughlin told me.

"You can't build a major infrastructure in this country without some problems and some people being against the plan.

"As a government, we've got to look at what is in the long term interest of the country."

The East Midlands hub for HS2 will be at Toton. It's commuter belt between Nottingham and Derby, and probably better known for its vast expanse of old railway sidings.

But is Toton the right location? Not according to the Labour leadership in Derby. They'll want the hub at the city's railway station. The Transport Secretary will need some persuading.

Patrick McLoughlin Mr McLoughlin said the route drawn up by the government was the best option

"The people who are working on HS2 haven't just come up one morning and drawn a line," he said.

"They've studied each detail of the route. The cost of reconfiguring Derby station for HS2 would have been substantial and it would have been incredibly disruptive."

Then there's the case for the hub at East Midlands Airport. The western leg of HS2 from Birmingham stops at Manchester Airport. So why was East Midlands Airport ruled out for the eastern route.

"One of the things we had to look at was connectivity, and the way we could best serve Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and the rest of the region," said the Transport Secretary.

"It's not so easy to do from East Midlands Airport. But if East Midlands Airport - which is owned by Manchester Airport - wants to come forward with a proposal, I'll look at it.

"But our plans are what we think is best for the route."

HS2 will also hug a long stretch of the M1 in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. This raises the need of shifting part of the motorway. It was only widened to an eight-lane motorway a few years ago.

'Expensive scheme'

The HS2 engineers call it realignment.

"There are certain areas where some realignment will have to be done," he added

"It is expensive. But then, this is an expensive scheme.

"The engineers say to me the line should go by the road network.

"There are very good reasons for the work we will need to do. We won't do the work unless it's necessary."

At £33bn, HS2 carries a big price tag. But could that cash be better spent on improving local transport?

"We are already going to electrify the Midland Main Line. HS2 will free up track space on the Midland Main Line. That's how you build up capacity and improve services.

"There's no way you can build a major railway of the nature of HS2 without upsetting some people.

"The size of the scheme, the importance of getting the route right is by far the most important thing for the government. And for the country."

As a politician, this Transport Secretary may have to draw on his reserves of Midlands pragmatism.

The first HS2 trains through the East Midlands may be 20 years away, but this is one big political issue that's not heading for the buffers.

John Hess Article written by John Hess John Hess Political editor, East Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    "They've studied each detail of the route. The cost of reconfiguring Derby station for HS2 would have been substantial and it would have been incredibly disruptive."

    How can the cost of upgrading an existing station be more cost effective than building a new hundred hectare site at Toton especially when there is such poor infrastructure to reach it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    The Derbyshire Dales MP is a pretty likeable guy who carries a warm smile. He also has the appearance of a veteran politician who is panic-proof.

    He is also a complete fool if he thinks anyone outside of Westminster agrees that this will be money well spent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Councils are getting less money, costs for families are increasing faster than wages, my disabled partner is going to have to pay for her second bedroom which she needs for her specialist equipment, so the government wastes money on this unnecessary and over-expensive scheme. And no doubt fares will be so high that ordinary people will not be able to use the rail link- tho we're paying for it

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Better nationalise the rail network if you are goign to be spending public money on it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    If you don't like move??! Who will buy the house? My brother's had a buyer pull out of his sale within a day of the proposed route being announced because it runs close to his house. I live in the East Midlands and know these lovely villages and it breaks my heart to think what will happen to them. It's criminal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    neill 17. Thing is you can't move to get away from the noise of Lewis Hamilton racing past every four minutes (or, every two since the first stage is projected to have them 4 mins each way). Why? Because property is so blighted that the Woolwich has already valued one cottage at £0 - instead of the £250000 offered for it. You want 90 odd decibels? You move there. No compensation offered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    We need capacity increases, not speed. Britain is too small and the costs too high for HS2. The money would be better invested in state owned nuclear power stations and is needed more urgently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    be nice if i could get a job working on these new sites....but i need a PTS card...and they cost over £600 for the course....will the goverment pay this for me ?
    as for the trains being in ear shot....if you dont like ....move !

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    For 'Fast Train' read 'Fast Drain'!
    That is what is GOING to happen to ALL of those billions! ALL that will really happen is a lot of (already) fat cats are going to be completely OBEASE!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Your objections have absolutely nothing at all to do with a business case, an environmental case or money to pay for it. Do not trust any of the rubbish you read on www.stophs2.org

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    "If you start extending current trains, you have to change signalling, platforms"

    Rubbish. The new trains on many lines are shorter and have less carriages than the trains they replaced. Longer trains could easily be accommodated on some of the busiest lines. One service I regularly travel on is half the length it used to be and the guards are always making excuses about a shortage of carriages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    The country needs more capacity, you cannot do-up the existing lines so you need new. If you start extending current trains, you have to change signalling, platforms and so on which means weekend closures (remember the wcml 'upgrade' - it was shut every w/e for years).
    Double deck trains won't fit in the UK - the Victorians built a great system but it's smaller and narrower compared to Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    "The govt wont give Manchester counsels {sic} £8 m to fix our pot hole covered roads"

    It could have been done with some of the £6.5Billion Manchester has already had in regeneration funds instead of wasting it on things like the Town Hall Complex and the (pointless) redesign of St Peter's Square.

    P.S Do trains only run one way? No, so how's it just for London?

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    What about brain drain from the north to London. We suffer enough in the East, so making it quicker and easier for our bright young things means they won't work locally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    The govt wont give Greater Manchester counsels £8 m to fix our pot hole covered roads but they'll spend £32bn giving us a railway to London.
    This does NOT benefit the North. It benefits London. Why is no one questioning why they got £15bn on Crossrail when I have to stand up on my train every single day. Make all cities have public transport like London THEN link them up with fancy new railways

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    The major justification for HS2 seems to be that other nations have it so we should, "to catch up". Please tell me which nations of comparable geographic size have HS trains? No business case has been made bar the "short" term value of building it. Comparing it with Victorian railway building is ludicrous. The nation is more densely populated now so the environmental effects are magnified.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Why is Top gear so successful?, because if it was call Top train nobody would watch it would they!

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Just a thought. How about demolishing the entire railway system, and rebuilding it from scratch to meet present and probable future needs? Might even get it right, who knows, though given the English custom for making it up as we go along, I rather doubt it. Could be worth a try, and just think of all those jobs created.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    How about more roads?, I go through the hassle as many before me and get a driving licence as public transport inst a viable option to find i can't drive anywhere because there full, and as for trains I tried to use a train 6 years ago from Brum to London and they wanted £70 a ticket!, the cheek of it, to pay all that for waiting around then getting into a packed carriage, so in the car I went

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Thanks for the clarification

    Wouldn't the expansion of the existing station at Long Eaton be the easiest & cheapest option?

    Although Toton perhaps needs a train station (?), and it is only about 10 miles from E.Midlands airport (which is far closer than 4 of the 'London' airports are to London).


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