January 28, 2013 1:03 pm

Advantages of HS2 divide MPs

The proposed route of the planned HS2 high-speed link was trending high on Twitter on Monday morning as politicians, academics and citizens passed their verdict on the second phase of the rail network.

Many MPs found themselves at odds with their party loyalties because the route passes through some of their constituencies. Conservatives in Chancellor George Osborne’s Tatton constituency have already said they will object to any plans to route the line through parts of the Cheshire countryside.

“I’ve got this lingering thought about #HS2. Wouldn’t better and free wifi negate the need for speed for the majority of commuters?,” tweeted Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East.

Michael Dugher, Labour shadow minister, tweeted: “Clegg says #HS2 will ‘heal the north south-divide’. It’s going to take more than a new railway line in 20 years' time to do that.”

“It’s a bad day for North Warwickshire with the publication of #HS2 phase 2. Unsurprising, but devastating”, tweeted Dan Byles, Conservative MP for North Warwickshire & Bedworth.

Other MPs expressed support for the planned high-speed rail extension. Julian Smith, Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, said: “Here it is, one of the vital keys to closing down the north/south divide.”

Jack Dromey, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, said HS2 was “very welcome”, adding: “Britain cannot succeed through London and the southeast alone. Growth should not end at the Watford gap.”

Businesses broadly welcomed HS2. John Cridland, director-general of business lobby group the CBI said the project could not be built in isolation but needed sustained, additional capital investment in existing road and rail networks to meet increased demand.

“We cannot sit on our hands when the West Coast Main Line is set to reach full capacity by the 2020s and freight will be squeezed. Extending HS2 to the north is the project’s big prize. It will boost the economic potential of some of our biggest cities, driving growth and creating jobs across the country,” Mr Cridland said.

A study published on Monday by the Oxford Economics think-tank suggests more than 70,000 jobs will be created in Leeds as a result of the new high-speed rail line.

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said HS2 was exactly the sort of infrastructure project the UK needed to ease overcrowding on the West Coast Mainline.

“However, we remain of the view that to maximise value and connectivity it should be directly connected to the UK’s hub airport and we will continue to press hard to make the case for the route to take in Heathrow,” said Peter Bishop, deputy chief executive of the LCCI.

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