‘Secret’ rail plans denied by minister

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TRANSPORT Secretary Phillip Hammond has denied claims the Government has a ‘secret plan’ for the route of the high speed rail line through South Yorkshire.

Opponents of the new rail network - HS2 - claim that Wombwell Woods, Monk Bretton Priory and parts of the Dearne Valley are under threat from the scheme.

But Mr Hammond said: “No decision on any detailed routes north of Birmingham will be taken for at least a year and I have not been presented with any preliminary route options, of which I would expect there would be about 50.

“This is a transparent and irresponsible attempt by anti-HS2 campaigners to scare people.

“It is utterly inappropriate for those opposing the Government’s proposals to risk causing unnecessary and damaging blight in this way.”

Mr Hammond called a rumoured ‘secret route’, details of which were published in a national newspaper, ‘nothing more than guesswork riddled with inaccuracies’.

He added: “For example, the report in the national newspaper says the branch is ‘likely to run near the Belfry, the famous Warwickshire golf course’.

“In fact, we have already published the route proposals running as far as Lichfield, which is beyond the Belfry.

“The route avoids the golf course and is further away than existing pieces of transport infrastructure, such as the M6 toll motorway.”

Mr Hammond was responding after concerns were raised by Denis MacShane, Rotherham Central MP, about the opposition movement to the new rail network.

Mr MacShane called for the Government to push ahead with HS2 and slammed opponents already trying to oppose the first section of line between London and Birmingham.

He said: “I am concerned at the ‘not in my backyard’ attitude of some of the richest communities in Britain who are trying to deny towns and cities better rail links.

“If the same spirit had prevailed in the 19th century, none of our railways would have been built and in the 20th century this kind of selfishness would have stopped any motorway-building.”

Mr MacShane added: “Of course, it is to be regretted if a pretty view is impacted on by any development, whether of roads, railways or housing.

“But it is time that national as a whole rose up and said there is something called national interest.”

The planned HS2 route through South Yorkshire is backed by the county’s business and political leaders.