Missing out Stoke on Trent from the HS2 rail line to Manchester would be a costly mistake which would exclude the Potteries from the massive benefits of high speed rail, says Lib Dem Euro MP Phil Bennion.

High Speed Rail graphicThe Staffordshire and West Midlands MEP, Lib Dem transport spokesman in the European Parliament, said he strongly supports high speed rail but was 'very disappointed' that plans announced for a north west extension to Manchester only include a fixed link to Crewe's existing station but no stop for Stoke on Trent.
Dr Bennion said: 
"Bypassing Stoke-on-Trent would be a mistake. The Potteries are a top priority for regeneration but this would have the opposite effect, encouraging business to relocate further north. 
"The East Midlands extension to Leeds announced at the same time has a parkway station at Toton to serve Derby and Nottingham. The western route should also have a station to serve north Staffordshire, as close to Stoke as possible. Crewe is 15 miles away from Hanley, in the wrong direction for trains to Birmingham or London.
"I share the immense frustration of business and civic leaders in Stoke across party lines that this golden opportunity to plug into the key transport link of this century could be missed. 
"The Japanese have shown how you can have very efficient high speed trains at 200 mph with intermediate stations on passing loops with varied stopping patterns. 
"The EU is already supporting studies on detailed plans for HS2 using the Trans-European Networks budget and more money from this source is possible. But the key word here is 'Network'. 
"My main criticism of HS2 plans so far is the poor connection with the rest of our rail network. 
"Stoke passengers who want to use the new line would have to go to Crewe or south to Birmingham, where connections plans stand would also be poor.
"The Birmingham Interchange station would be too far from the existing Birmingham International and the Curzon Street terminus in Birmingham is too far from Birmingham New Street. Minutes gained on HS2 would be lost due to pointless walks from one station to another.
"The planned connection in London between HS2 and the existing HS1 to the Channel Tunnel also looks like an afterthought. Direct trains from the Midlands to Paris or Brussels will not be as quick as they could be.
"High Speed railways of the type now routine in Europe and being built on a vast scale in China are going to be vital for our economic growth this century. We have to get the planning right, both to minimise the environmental impact - where more work needs to be done - and to connect the new trains with other transport."