Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for Transport who visited Lichfield in October, has announced a new preferred route for the HS2 train service which will by-pass Lichfield and Whittington. "They have abandoned the railway viaduct which would have flown over Britannia Park in Lichfield and blighted the lives of people living in hundreds of homes as well as being an eyesore across most of Lichfield" says Michael Fabricant. Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday 20th December, Philip Hammond said "An improved alignment has been identified which would move the line further away from Lichfield".
Michael Fabricant adds: "The train will be forced to slow down as it approaches Lichfield District from the south as the track takes an inverted ‘S’ bend passing roughly midway between Lichfield and Whittington then swinging to the left to pass east of Streethay and heading out to the north west.
"Many in Lichfield and Whittington will regard it as a major victory.
"I am aware that this new route will still cause huge difficulties for those in its path, but it greatly minimises the effect on residents of Lichfield District. Far fewer people will now be affected. It is the culmination of countless meetings I have had with the Secretary of State for Transport and his engineers and with the Prime Minister. If the line is eventually constructed, it is the route which will cause the least damage.
"However, the question still arises as to whether HS2 is the best way to link the north and south of the UK and I know that the Lichfield Action Group will argue that HS2 is not the way to achieve this and that it should not be built.
"I have an open mind on the matter. The existing north-south rail links are reaching full capacity and some solution does now need to be found before our rail service clogs up altogether. If there is an alternative which will deliver the same benefits than constructing a new line, I would welcome it. But the Department of Transport assert that longer trains and increased signalling on existing track to increase the number of trains are only a short term fix. The HS2 is not about shaving off a few minutes between Birmingham and London. It is all about connecting the north and Scotland with the south east for the next generation.
"There will now be a 5 month Public Consultation into the route starting in February. Those still affected by HS2 – together with those who argue for an alternative to HS2 – will be able to give evidence and seek further changes. At the end of it all in late 2011, my job will be to fight for the maximum compensation for those constituents who are still affected by the line if the project still goes ahead."
Major expenditure on the line begins in 2017 with the commencement of its construction.