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LINK TO THE FUTURE

20-02-2010

New Street Station

Just when we thought the region might be getting the rail link it deserves a dark cloud has appeared on the horizon. It shouldn’t be allowed to get any darker, or nearer.

The proposed High Speed Two rail link has been under discussion for several years It appeared that a cross-party consensus had been reached and this long–overdue plan to reduce train journey times from London to Birmingham to under an hour was finally going to happen regardless of who might win the forthcoming general election.

Then came news that shadow transport secretary Teresa Villiers has insisted that the Tories may not support current plans to route HS2 through the Chilterns. The obvious suspicion is that this is a political ruse to prevent the party from losing key seats in the forthcoming election as voters potentially rebel against the idea that their homes may be affected by the new line. While the Conservative party remains publically committed to a high-speed rail link, one party source admits “We don’t want to lose 10 sweats backing a route blindly.”

And the fear remains that while David Cameron’s personal credentials remain as environmentally friendly as ever, his party’s rank and file are growing sceptical about the importance of green policies. Additionally, the Thatcherite ethos that regarded spending on roads as investment and on public transport as subsidy still holds sway in many a constituency office.

Whatever they might say both in public and private, let’s hope that the Tories really are as committed to this project as they would have us believe. The British economy is already heavily skewed in favour of the south east and this project is necessary in order to attract investment into the north and Midlands.

It would give our region the rail link into Europe we were originally promised when plans for Eurotunnel were first drawn up. A station at Birmingham International would also boost the nearby airport, relieving the need for a third runway at Heathrow.

There’s already an impression that the West Midlands is seen as a backwater by central government and the public sector. To handicap us ever further by rejecting this plan would seriously jeopardise the region’s economic future.

We need the Conservatives to state unequivocally that should they win this year’s general election they will press ahead with plans to construct High Speed Two at the earliest opportunity. The West Midlands deserves better than to be used as a bargaining tool by nervous Home Counties MPs.

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