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MPs vote to progress HS2
HS2 moved another step closer to becoming reality after MPs last night voted in favour of progressing the scheme.
Members passed the Second Reading of the controversial project's Hybrid Bill - effectively its Parliamentary planning application - in a vote yesterday evening.
But despite voting going 451-50 in favour of progressing the scheme a number of MPs from both sides of the political divide and either end of the country raised concerns about the future of the project.
Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh said HS2 should "set the gold standard in environmental mitigation", after Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan questioned why the line's route cuts through the widest part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty rather than following exisiting transport corridors.
And many members hit out at the lack of proper scrutiny and planning on HS2, despite saying they supported the principle of a new railway line.
Barry Sheerman, Labour member for Huddersfield, said: "This proposal is deeply flawed, and has never been scrutinised properly or planned properly.
"We want a rail network that will be modern, efficient, effective and affordable deep into the 21st century. We are frightened that, because of incompetence in the Department for Transport under both this government and the previous government, we have been getting it very wrong.
"We do not actually need a very superfast rail system. We need a fast rail system, but we do not necessarily need very high speed trains that have to go absolutely in straight lines."
He added: "I regret the fact that there will not be a very clear government/opposition vote tonight, because I believe we should be holding the government to account more vigorously at this moment in time."
Conservative Dan Byles, whose North Warwickshire constituency will be affected by the first phase of the line to Birmingham and the second one on to the north, said: "Those of us who do not support HS2 are not mindless nimbys. We sincerely believe that this project is wrong, because it will not provide the benefits that are claimed.
"The financial cost and the impact on ordinary people’s lives up and down the country outweigh the limited and unbalanced benefits that HS2 might bring.
"The property market [in North Warwickshire] is completely frozen along the route, trapping many people in houses that they wish to sell for all sorts of legitimate reasons that do not qualify as 'exceptional hardship'.
"We will have a colossal 31 track railhead but, because it is deemed a temporary structure, nearby residents will not qualify for compensation. That temporary structure will be there for more than 15 years and, because of a sleight of hand that moved it at the last minute from phase 2 to phase 1, it has never properly been consulted on.
"The line will demolish houses, destroy sports clubs and cut through two country parks and a local primary school."
Mrs Gillan called for further environmental mitigation to be considered by the government and her views were backed by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for The Cotswolds.
He said: "If this railway had been a fast railway going at 300 kph rather than 360 kph, we could have varied the route very slightly, but with huge benefit, especially to the Chilterns.
"HS1 was built along the existing transport corridors, along the motorways and often along the existing rail links. If we had built a fast rail rather than a high-speed rail, we could have swept it out along the M40 and tunnelled under the shortest bit of the Chilterns. We would not have done any environmental degradation to the Chilterns at all."
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said 3.3km of the 20.8 km of the route going through the Chilterns, adding: "She [Mrs Gillan] is right that her constituents benefited directly from the M40, and that was paid for by taxpayers across the whole country, rather than just by those in that area."
And former Home and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw added: "The M40 was far more disruptive to people living in the Chilterns but nobody would now suggest it should be abandoned or greened over."
Mrs Creagh said: "HS2 should set the gold standard in environmental mitigation and in promoting plant and animal life along the route. We will hold the Government and HS2 to account to reduce its environmental impact."
She added: "We have been very clear that there is not a blank cheque for this project."
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