GUEST COLUMN: HS2 will benefit the region, by Sir Alan Meale MP

MPs often receive comments from constituents concerning planning matters which sometimes are, but often aren’t about local issues, instead about economic policies or issues which are miles away from the area.

Concerns usually centre around large construction projects, for instance the Channel Tunnel, Crossrail, various new road schemes and most recently HS2, the proposed high speed rail link to the north from London.

Opinion I receive usually argue views such as value for money, environmental impacts and support for the status quo. Is such angst warranted? Especially as sometimes the subjects aren’t of direct concern to complainers. Because of the disappointment decisions sometimes create when things don’t move in preferred directions, furore often ensues. Take for example the case of the Channel Tunnel project, despite years of objections and opposition it’s now a highly successful route into Europe joining us inextricably to the continent. Then there’s the many varieties of road schemes which enter the debate. Locally take the case of the Marr Route, our outer ring and the Rainworth bypass. Heavily objected to during their inception, the main complaints today being somewhat different as they’re now about its lack of dual carriageway status inhibiting it from performing as well as people think it should.

As we all know planning causes both anger and disappointment, depending what side you are on at the time. However we couldn’t do without it and we rely upon it to serve our best needs and interests. I mention this because the Government has just decided to approve the proposed HS2 scheme, costing billions of pounds. Many see the scheme as merely infrastructural investment, about fast trains to and from London, which it isn’t, although it will undoubtedly transform journey times to and from the capital. It’s instead about delivering economic opportunity, connectivity and productivity to communities stretching the country. When built it will deliver much locally as its East Midlands hub station will be the most connected outside of London, with it dealing with a minimum of seven trains per hour. It’s also about delivering completion of the electrification of the Midlands Main line and a further extension of the Nottingham tram system. Mansfield travellers benefiting greatly by direct connections and Chesterfield gaining infrastructural investment via the construction of a repair depot at Stavely. More good news is also pending as other development opportunities are planned in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, throughout Nottinghamshire, Shirebrook, Loughborough, East Midlands Airport, Stanton Hill, Chetwynd Barracks and other enterprise zones across the region. When will this happen? Soon I hope, it’s now reached its final stages at Westminster. Local MPs, councils, enterprise partnerships and the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce now all gearing up to develop a growth strategy to maximise any economic benefits for local people and businesses in the area. So as we approach the year ahead let’s hope this train of economic progress sets off and arrives on its journey of hope, endeavour and aspirations as quickly as possible.