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Darlington politicians cross swords over HS2
CONSERVATIVE politicians in a North-East town have put pressure on their Labour counterparts to support a multi-billion pound high-speed rail project.
Labour has yet to give its backing to HS2, which will link London to the West Midlands and, ultimately, Leeds.
Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the opposing Conservative group on Darlington Borough Council, said the project would support jobs in the North-East’s rail supply sector.
That is at odds with the views of Darlington MP Jenny Chapman, who said the benefits HS2 would bring to the North-East are not clear.
Coun Scott said: “The Prime Minister is right to say that this project needs all-party support if private investors are to be encouraged.
It is likely to fail if Labour withdraws its support or uses political sophistry to be equivocal.
“Local companies like Henry Williams and the new Hitachi Rail have said that the project will have a positive impact on their business and on employment.
“We backed the all-party efforts to persuade Hitachi to invest in Aycliffe, so we should continue with all-party support to build the HS2 rail lines.
“We need to know where Jenny Chapman is on this issue.
“Does she back local workers or is she on the fence?”
Mrs Chapman said: “The case for spending billions on HS2 is far from settled – there can be no blank cheque.
“The benefits to the North-East are not clear.
“There is a risk of under-investment in the East Coast Main Line as a consequence of this project, which would be disastrous for Darlington and the rest of the region.”
Coun Scott also wants a full council debate on this issue and the group plans to table a motion in the near future.
She added: “Labour cannot be allowed to get away with political posturing on an issue of such importance to local employers and our national infrastructure.”
Council leader Bill Dixon said: “The jury is still very much out [on HS2].
“It is very expensive, it does not run here, there is conflicting evidence as to the benefits and my view is that we should wait until things are a bit clearer.”
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