High Speed 2 (HS2) link: Politicians accused of scaremongering
Rail bosses have accused politicians of scaremongering over concerns thousands of jobs could be jeopardised by the High Speed 2 (HS2) route.
Last week, the Leicester Mercury revealed the route of the second phase of the £32 billion project to carry 225mph passenger trains between the West Midlands and Leeds. The details were confirmed by the Government yesterday.
The announcement the line would cut through North West Leicestershire before entering a 2km tunnel under East Midlands Airport was met with dismay.
The detailed route shows HS2 re-emerging from the airport tunnel in the middle of a site earmarked by developer Roxhill as a rail freight depot.
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Roxhill would create 6,000 jobs and secure millions of pounds for road improvement projects in the area.
Both Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton and North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said it was unlikely both projects could progress.
However, the Government-owned HS2 Ltd company hit back yesterday.
A spokesman said: "It's simply scaremongering to say it will hold back development.
"The planned freight hub in north west Leicestershire will already be rail-connected and we want to ensure that both this development and HS2 can go ahead.
"We will be meeting the developers very shortly to work together to find the best route for both projects.
"HS2 is an engine for growth that will create jobs and boost our economy."
Nobody from Roxhill was available for comment yesterday, but Councillor Rushton said he was unconvinced by HS2's assurances.
He said it would be a huge loss to the county should the Roxhill scheme be called off, particularly as HS2 will not have a Leicestershire station.
The nearest stop will be a new station at Toton Sidings, between Nottingham and Derby.
Coun Rushton said: "They told me I could ask for the tunnel to be extended so it does not come out in the Roxhill site. Well, that would bring it out in the middle of Lockington.
"The detailed proposals show them occupying the same space.
"I can't see how they will make it work."
He said he feared communities along the routes, such as Measham, Packington and Tonge, would suffer from the noise of high-speed trains.
Mr Bridgen said the outlined HS2 route passed very close to his home in Appleby Magna, as well as his vegetable business, AB Produce, in Measham.
He said: "It goes right through the field outside my front door. I suppose it shows there is no favouritism.
"I am also a couple of weeks away from putting in for planning permission for an extension to my factory – an anaerobic digester which will create electricity.
"Where does this leave that?
"I already have concerns about the cost of HS2, the damage to the countryside and whether it would re-balance the regional economy as planned.
"Having seen the impact it would have on North West Leicestershire, where we would suffer all of the pain and none of the gain, it only reinforces my views against HS2.
"It will create a blight now which will affect the area for years to come."
A spokesman for the airport said it was unaware of the tunnel plans when contacted by the Mercury last week.
Yesterday, a spokesman said: "We will clearly need to digest the announcement and we will then work closely with HS2 to understand the implications for East Midlands Airport in more detail."
National Forest Company chief executive Sophie Churchill said the HS2 route would affect the area. "This is, potentially, another major transport route cutting a line right across the forest," she said.
The Government has said HS2 would boost the economy by slashing rail journey times.
The line between Birmingham and Leeds is unlikely to open before 2032.
North West Leicestershire Labour Party spokesman John Legrys said: "It will sterilise development along that corridor for 20 years and if it does cost us Roxhill, those jobs will be a huge loss."
Councillor Rory Palmer, Leicester's deputy mayor, said: "Any benefits which HS2 will provide are decades away. In my view, the urgent priority for rail improvements in the East Midlands is upgrading the Midland Mainline.
"The Government plans say faster trains will be on the Midland Mainline by the end of 2019 but we need it to be sooner than that.
"There will be benefits for the East Midlands from HS2, but those advantages are decades away.
"We need action now to boost the regional economy and bringing forward the Midland Mainline plans can help to do that."
HS2 Ltd said it expected 105 properties would need to be demolished to make way for the Birmingham to Leeds leg, but could not say yesterday how many of them would be in Leicestershire.
Some compulsory purchases of property will be inevitable.
A consultation was launched yesterday and is due to last until April 29.