PARLIAMENT has voted to push forward with the controversial HS2 rail project – with borough MPs Lorely Burt and Caroline Spelman in agreement with the decision.
On Monday (April 28) MPs voted on the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill which grants powers to construct and operate phase one of the project.
And despite a 35-strong Tory rebellion – the bill overwhelmingly passed its first Parliamentary hurdle by 451 votes to 50, owing to Labour support.
It will now be considered in detail by a committee of MPs but is not expected to become law until after the 2015 election.
Solihull’s Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt voted in favour of the project while Meriden’s Conservative MP, whose constituency will be at the heart of the plans, abstained from voting.
Speaking to The Observer after the vote Mrs Burt said: “I voted for HS2 to strengthen Solihull’s economy, create jobs and protect the environment.
“HS2 is expected to create 50,000 jobs in the West Midlands, of which more than half will be in Solihull and Birmingham. It will raise output for our area by £4 billion.
“Compared with roads, rail travel cuts carbon emissions by half for passengers and by three quarters for freight.
“We cannot afford to let Britain slip behind, saddling a Twenty First Century economy with Nineteenth Century infrastructure.”
Meanwhile Mrs Spelman is left with a more delicate balancing act.
She acknowledges all the benefits HS2 will bring to the region, but represents the many residents who will be affected as the rail link ploughs through Berkswell and Balsall Common on its way to Birmingham.
She subsequently abstained from the vote, instead promising to concentrate on seeking compensation for those affected by the construction work HS2 creates.
She said: “My constituency gets both the pain and the gain, because in having the first station outside London we will undoubtedly benefit from some of the 30,000 permanent jobs it has been estimated will come.
“However, many of the local roads are twisty and small, and quite unsuitable for construction traffic.
“I was encouraged by the Minister to set up a petition for compensation for those affected by the construction.”
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin hit out at MPs for ‘voting without knowing all the facts’.
He said: “The fact MPs have said ‘we don’t know and we don’t care’ about a commitment to spend well over the official 2011 cost of £50 billion should have everyone worried about the competency of all who voted for this bill.
“I challenge any MP who spoke for HS2 today to get in a real debate about the project, because I know they will come up short and not be able to deal with the truth.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin described HS2 as a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity to create jobs and develop skills, provide the extra space we need on our rail network for commuters and freight, and better connect our biggest cities’.