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5 September 2012, 12:36
Campaigners against plans for a new high speed rail line between London and Birmingham have welcomed the appointment of a new Transport Secretary.
Patrick McLoughlin (right) was given the job in the government reshuffle of Tuesday 4 September 2012. He takes over from Justine Greening, who was in the post for ten months.
In January 2012, Justine Greening approved plans for the High Speed Two line, which will see trains run at up to 250mph between London and Birmingham. A later phase of the project is expected to see the High Speed network extended to the north of England and Scotland.
The High Speed Two line is set to be built across countryside in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. Campaigners opposed to the project are worried it will destroy the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They also feel there is no economic case for the project.
Supporters reckon HS2 will ease overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line running through places like Watford Junction, Milton Keynes and Northampton. They also feel Britain needs HS2 to remain attractive as a country to do business in.
A series of legal challenges have been launched against High Speed Two, and these are due to be heard in late 2012. A bill has still to be presented before Parliament, and MPs still need to vote on it, before the project can officially be started.
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said: “We welcome the appointment of Mr McLoughlin, who seems at first glance far more aware of the world around him than the two previous secretaries of state and has already spent more time in the DfT than them both put together.
"Given his background, we hope the new man in the DfT will be far more receptive than Justine Greening, who refused to even meet with us during her ten months in the job. We hope to put our case to both the new Minister and Secretary of State as soon as possible."
“We had been expecting the consultations on compensation and land safeguarding, along with the publication of stage 2 of the route to happen in the next week or so, but surely, like when Justine Greening was appointed and delayed publishing the HS2 public consultation results, there will now be a rethink and a delay.
"To do anything else would be irresponsible and we will be pressing for a complete rethink on HS2, hoping that Mr McLoughlin will see the importance of an integrated transport infrastructure solution for Britain opposed to this ill thought out grand project."
Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council and the Chairman of 51m, the alliance of 18 local authorities that has joined together in a national campaign to actively challenge the HS2 rail project, also welcomed Patrick McLoughlin's appointment.
He said: "The business case for HS2 has collapsed and there are much more important priorities for infrastructure investment that will bring jobs and growth now, when we need them.
"We trust that Patrick McLoughlin, the new Secretary of State, will approach the issue of HS2 with an open mind, look at the facts and the alternatives that 51m have put forward and decide to consign this project to the waste paper bin.
"Key, respected politicians such as David Davis MP and Michael Fallon MP have come out this week against HS2, we hope that Patrick McLoughlin will listen to their advice."
Even if High Speed Two goes ahead, building work is not expected to start until 2017 and the project is unlikely to be completed before 2026.