West Midlands' business leaders at HS2 meeting

Business leaders from the West Midlands have met to discuss the impact of the proposed HS2 high-speed rail link.

The planned 250mph route between London and Birmingham aims to cut journey times to 49 minutes.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told the meeting, held at the NEC near Birmingham, that the new line offered huge economic benefits.

He also said the preferred route for the line will be announced before Christmas.

The government will then consult in the new year on a 'Y' shaped network with separate legs from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds.

'Vital stops'

The North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce said it was vital the line had a Staffordshire stop.

The chamber said firms would not relocate there without it.

Mr Hammond told the meeting that the line would "dramatically shrink Britain" and bring towns and cities closer together.

Objectors at the meeting said the scheme was not financially viable, but Mr Hammond disagreed.

Opponents have also said the move would be bad for the environment and cost more than could be afforded.

Last week, Southam Town Council, in Warwickshire, decided to oppose the scheme saying it could see no benefit whatsoever, only damage to people's homes and businesses.

The proposed railway route was announced in March and is scheduled to go from London's Euston Station, to just south of Aylesbury, up to between Coventry and Kenilworth, and then into a new station in the Eastside area of Birmingham.

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