A Labour government would reverse controversial plans to create a rail maintenance depot in east Birmingham which some politicians claim could cost 7,200 jobs, MP Liam Byrne has announced.
The Shadow Cabinet Minister warned a Labour government could make last-minute changes to plans for a high speed rail line between London and Birmingham - even though complicated legislation approving the Government’s plans is due to begin its passage through Parliament this year.
He made the announcement as Ministers prepared to set out proposals for the second phase of the project, extending the line north from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, which will be published on Monday January 28.
Mr Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) was speaking in the Commons to condemn plans for a rail depot in Washwood Heath, in his constituency, to service and maintain trains using the planned high speed rail line.
Although the depot will create 300 jobs while the new line is constructed, and up to 700 jobs when the high speed network is up and running, it will kill off plans drawn up by Birmingham City Council to use the same land for a high-tech business park, which could create a potential 6,500 jobs.
It is also likely to mean some existing businesses using the site would have to move, taking another 700 jobs out of the area.
But Mr Byrne clashed with Transport Minister Norman Baker - who claimed Birmingham City Council officials had actually backed the depot plans.
Mr Byrne revealed that a Labour government would find a new location for the depot if legislation approving the scheme had not already been approved when it came into power.
A Hybrid Bill allowing construction to begin is currently expected to be introduced to the Commons this year and to receive Royal Assent in 2015.
If this has not happened before May 2015, the expected date of the next election, it might be possible for a Labour government to propose last-minute changes, although it is not clear whether this would mean a new consultation would be required.
Transport Minister Norman Baker (Lib Dem) said Birmingham City Council officials had approved the depot site. He said: “In developing a long list of options, HS2 Ltd worked closely with Birmingham City Council officers who agreed with the site selection process.”
Mr Byrne, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “It is simply inconceivable that it could be said that Birmingham City Council officers agreed with this site selection.”
He added: “It will be the Labour front bench position that if the legislation is not on the books by 2015 and Labour is to form the next Government then Labour will look at this decision again.”