MPs opposing HS2 suggested a new freight line, high speed rail elsewhere, or even a new line should be built from London to Milton Keynes.
It’s incredibly confusing and not the united front or coordinated assault opposition groups doubtless anticipated.
The House of Commons debate yesterday (Thursday 13 October) on HS2 was secured by MPs in opposition to the £17bn scheme.
But within minutes of the debate opening it was clear there going to be some surprises for both sides.
Andrea Leadsom, MP for south Northamptonshire, made many of the familiar arguments against, focusing on cost and the environment.
But then she put forward her solution: A new line to be built from London to Milton Keynes.
The rest of the country would be able to use the existing West Coast Main Line, she said.
It remains to be seen what opponents to HS2 in the south think about another line being built near their homes, but what about capacity for the Midlands and North?
How does this solve the congestion elsewhere in this country as passenger numbers rise to their highest level since the 1920s?
Geoffrey Robinson, MP for Coventry North West, said Centro had made the case that local and regional capacity was needed. This is true, but Centro fully support HS2 as it will release capacity for these services on existing lines.
Mr Robinson said he would support HS2 if he represented Manchester or Leeds.
Next up to speak was Birmingham Hall Green MP, Roger Godsiff – the only Birmingham MP to come out against HS2.
Mr Godsiff said high speed trains worked best in countries with large land masses. In fact, they work best when serving large population centres. The Japanese railway is excellent evidence of this.
Plenty of MPs spoke in support of HS2, with Wirral West MP, Esther McVey, explaining that ‘just because a decision is hard and opposition loud doesn’t mean we should shy away.’
She said ‘HS2 is not just about speed, but fundamentally about capacity.’
Wimbledon MP, Stephen Hammond, said he had taken the time to study alternative schemes put forward by HS2 opponents.
‘They don’t address peak-time demand’ he said and described them as ‘hotch-potch alternatives.’
Paul Maynard MP (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) agreed that Rail Package 2 (known as RP2) and RP2+ did not solve capacity problems at peak times.
Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins called for a new freight line to be built.
Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert, said: ‘HS2 Is not a luxury, but a cold, hard necessity.’
He added that capacity had often been covered up because of an obsession with journey times between Birmingham and London.
Stuart Andrew, MP for Pudsey, agreed with him.
‘If we don’t face the realities of transport infrastructure, we grind to a halt,’ he said.
He pointed out the economic case for HS2 was stronger than those of Crossrail and the Jubilee Line Extension.
“But I didn’t see the white elephant when Jubilee Line and Crossrail were suggested,’ he said.
John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness, said: ‘This can be about bringing local economies of this country closer together.’
He added: ‘Capacity issues are so great there’s no credible alternative to HS2.’
Transport Minister Theresa Villiers concluded the debate by stating that benefits from HS2 would be felt right across the Midlands and North.
Judging by the activity on twitter and other social media it clearly wasn’t the debate HS2 opponents were expecting.
AGHAST spokesperson Jerry Marshall claimed Birmingham businesses lived in a ‘bubble of ignorance’ presumably because they do not share his viewpoint.
Sadly it is predominantly the argument from those MPs opposing the route which has been reported.
This is a shame as Esther McVey, Stephen Hammond, Stuart Andrew, Julian Huppert and others had clearly done their research and they are firmly behind HS2.