The controversial HS2 high speed rail link is “vital to the future prosperity of Northampton” according to one of the town’s MPs.
Brian Binley, MP for Northampton South, attended Monday’s debate in the House of Commons. He has been an enthusiastic support of the rail link, which cuts through the south of the county.
“Many of those who complain about disruption in their green and pleasant constituencies rarely think about major housing growth areas such as Northampton, which is expected to increase its population by 50 percent over the next 25 years to provide for the housing needs of the south-east and, in so doing, help to alleviate demand that might be placed on other constituencies.
“With respect, it is no wonder that some of my constituents think that that view is perhaps a little uncaring, to say the least.
“Furthermore, critics of HS2 must be clear about whether they prefer to forgo growth—that growth would be hampered by the maintenance of the status quo—and they must define their alternatives while remembering that none of those so far proposed would meet the increased projected demands to which I have referred.”
One of the most vocal MPs protesting against the scheme has been Mr Binley’s fellow Conservative Andrea Leadsom, whose South Northamptonshire constituency is blighted by the route. Mrs Leadsom was recently promoted to the position of Treasury Minister and, like other high-profile ministers, abstained from Monday’s vote as they had other commitments elsewhere. Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, and Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering, both voted against the scheme. In all, 33 Tory MPs voted against the plans in defiance of the Government whips.
Mr Binley, who is also the chairman of the Northampton Rail Users Group, urged his Westminster colleagues to look at the positives that the HS2 project will bring.
He said: “We already have an overcrowded network that is literally full to capacity on our most significant transport corridor. We have record traffic levels, with passenger growth at five percent per annum. Rail freight will double over the next 20 years. Yet an aged existing permanent way is decaying to the point of redundancy.”
He continued: “The Higgins review concluded that a make and mend upgrade of the west coast main line on its own simply will not meet future demand, no matter what we do with it. The capacity does not exist. Make and mend on its own would be futile, and would mean 20 years of major disruption, at a cost of more than £20 billion—virtually the same cost as phase 1 of HS2—and a further 14 years of weak and disruptive bus substitutions and longer journeys on a far greater scale than during the route modernisation completed a few years ago.”
Mr Binley concluded: “The issue is wider than just a set of railway lines; it is about what we feel about competing in the world to come and what we are willing to leave both our children and our grandchildren. Had the Victorian railway entrepreneurs not taken the decisions they did when they did, we would be in a sorry state now.”