THE controversial route of the HS2 rail development through Staffordshire was defended by one of the projects technical directors at a meeting with county councillors.
Professor Andrew McNaughton, HS2 technical director, explained why the proposed phase two route had been chosen when he met with council leaders on Tuesday February 12.
The route, which has come under scathing criticism from some politicians and residents, will come within ten miles of Burton.
Prof McNaughton said several proposed routes were discounted due to engineering challenges and environmental factors such as the protected Pasturefields salt marsh.
Staffordshire County Councillors also had the chance to quiz the technical director over the planned the HS2 route.
Mike Maryon, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said it was important for residents affected by the route to ‘know the facts’.
He said: “Residents in a number of wards represented by county and borough councillors are likely to be affected and it is important we all know the facts if we are to get the best mitigation for communities and the environment.
“The meeting gave many of the councillors a real insight into how HS2 engineers had come to the proposed design and how they had to factor in environmental protected sites such as the salt marsh.
“While Staffordshire will see none of the benefits of the high speed link, it is important to continue to engage closely with the directors to help influence the design and get the best outcome for residents.”
The route came in for withering criticism from Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant when it was announced last month.
Mr Fabricant, who has vowed not to support the scheme in Parliament in its current form, said: “I am totally opposed to HS2 going anywhere near Staffordshire
“I have no illusions on how HS2 will affect residents of Kings Bromley, Armitage and the Ridwares as the line to Manchester plunges northwards through rural Staffordshire, blighting homes and blighting lives.”
The exact route for HS2 will be chosen by the end of 2014.
Construction is expected to start within ten years with high speed lines north of Birmingham opening by 2033.
Despite opposition, Government ministers have said the route is vital to the nation’s economic future.