MP urges Government to use North-East steel industry for £32bn high-speed rail network (From The Northern Echo)
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Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and east Cleveland calls on Government to support steel workers
THE Government must use the North-East steel industry to build its £32bn high-speed rail network and safeguard thousands of Teesside jobs, it was claimed last night.
The 250mph rail service will run between London and Newcastle, cutting journeys by more than 30 minute and connecting the region with the rest of the country.
The service will use the existing East Coast Main Line track from Newcastle to York, before joining a new high-speed line at Church Fenton, outside York.
The high-speed trains could be in operation by 2033.
Mr Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and east Cleveland, said the Government should use steel from SSI in Redcar and Lackenby, after failing to route the high-speed line through the North-East.
He said: "We continue to be left behind in terms of transport infrastructure, and given the extension plans seem to look no further north than Leeds, the Government are continuing to demonstrate their failure to invest in transport infrastructure in North-East.
"One way of overcoming this disadvantage would be a firm declaration that they would prioritise the ordering of steel from Teesside.
"The SSI plant in Redcar would benefit, as would Lackenby Beam Mill, which is an ideal source for the beams and sections for overhead gantries.
"The Skinningrove plant in east Cleveland, which has had a history of forging and rolling high quality rail, would also welcome the work.
"We have a tradition of top class and global standard steel making and there would be both pride and relief for our area if passengers were riding smoothly and safely on Teesside steel."
Under the plans, trains will not stop at Church Fenton but join the high-speed line before continuing through Leeds, Sheffield, Toton, in Nottingham, and Birmingham, before reaching London.
Business leaders have welcomed the move, saying the 211-mile route will increase rail use and ease the pressure on North-East companies, though residents in Church Fenton and the Country Land and Business Association say the plans will damage the countryside.
Mark Stephenson, policy advisor at North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), said: “This is positive news and will triple the North-East rail network passenger capacity.
"It will take the pressure of commuter numbers and will lift the burden off businesses who find it expensive to pay for people to travel to London.
"That should save them a serious amount of money which could be used on apprenticeships or machinery."
The Government says up to 16 trains could run between Newcastle and London every day.
Heidi Mottram, a former managing director of Northern Rail and now a member of the Government's North-East Economic Review panel, said the line would provide a catalyst for the region's economy.
She said: "There has been a lot of agonising from some people, but other countries have done similar schemes and reaped the benefits.
"This will have a major impact for the North-East because people will be able to travel at high speed to London, which will save a lot of time, and it seems inevitable that it will be extended to Scotland.
"Services will get faster and this should benefit companies in the North-East because they can link up with similar companies across the country at greater speed."
PANEL OF REDUCED TRAIN TIMES UNDER HS2 Journeys from Newcastle to London reduce to 2hr 18min from 2hr 52min.
From Newcastle to Birmingham; 2hr 7min from 3hr 14min.
From Newcastle to Nottingham; 2hr 3min from 2hr 59min.
From Newcastle to Sheffield; 1hr 37min from 1hr 55min.