A different type of HS2 campaign

HS1 Javelin Train © Wikimedia/Sunil060902
HS1 Javelin Train
© Wikimedia/Sunil060902

The Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant has called for the route of the proposed HS2 railway line to be shifted so that rather than taking in the Staffordshire countryside and the delights of its cathedral city, it goes instead through Walsall and Cannock.

As somebody who lives in Cannock and has close connections with Walsall, can I respond to his suggest with a hearty “Yes Please!”

I simply do not understand what the anti-HS2 campaigners are getting in a beef about – the suggestion that property prices will be lowered because a railway line will go nearby is ridiculous.

I’ve lived near a railway line most of my life. At one point I lived within half a mile of the District Line terminus at Upminster. The one time I didn’t live near a railway line, Tavistock in Devon, I wished I did, because it was the absence of good public transport links that resulted in having to relocate back to the Midlands.

Yes, there will be inconvenience, noise and a great deal of dust while the line is being built – but that is a temporary negative in return for a permanent benefit. Ask the people who live alongside HS1 – the people who live near Stratford, Ebbsfleet, Ashford and all points south – and who have new trains that connect to HS1 what the route has done to property prices. I don’t think you’ll find many people arguing that Kent has suffered from a housing crash. Quite the opposite, I imagine.

So yes, please can the line go through Walsall and Cannock. And then, can we have some strategic thinking?

In Walsall, can we have a new Euro-hub station with connections from across the UK to Paris, Brussels and beyond? There’s enough land available to build one if existing businesses in the area bounded by Bradford Street and the Wednesbury Road to the west; Rolling Mill Street (or even Princes Street) to the south; the Walsall Canal to the east and Bridgeman Street to the north were relocated. This land would provide sufficient space for a fantastic passenger terminal, significant amounts of car parking and new platforms to accommodate trains to Europe.

A Black Country Eurohub?
A Black Country Eurohub?

But it could also serve as a parkway station, allowing people in the Midlands to park at a station before getting a high speed train to London (there is nowhere near enough in Birmingham for the proposed HS2 terminus at Curzon Street to meet passengers’ needs).

If Walsall doesn’t want it (the town has history here – the good burghers of Walsall campaigned against what is now the West Coast Mainline in the Victorian era, losing out to that smaller neighbourhood of Wolverhampton), then can we have it in Cannock?

A parkway station in or around Cannock, served by the HS2 or a line that links to it, would do wonders for the local economy and help people like me that have to travel to London fairly frequently. No more would I need to drive to Stafford, Wolverhampton or Birmingham to catch a train to the capital, with the resultant extra hour or 90 minutes that I have to add onto journey times.

So, yes. If the good people of Lichfield can’t see the benefits of HS2, can we have it over here please?



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