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ROBINSON: BOB'S WAY OFF TRACK OVER HS2; y's heavyweight Labour duo at y y g City's d s La City's 's heavywe weight Labour duo a uo at odds over support for bullet train pp p p fo odds ov ove ver support fo for tra bullet tra rain in.

Byline: Les Reid

GEOFFREY Robinson has attacked his fellow Coventry Labour MP Bob Ainsworth's backing for high-speed rail. Mr Robinson said of his longstanding colleague: "Bob is dead wrong here."

His comments come ahead of a Coventry Telegraph public debate next month between Mr Ainsworth and campaigners fighting government plans for 250mph bullet trains ripping through Coventry and Warwickshire countryside.

The two Labour heavyweights - both former cabinet ministers - clash over the benefits the pounds 17.4bn HS2 rail line between Birmingham and London would bring to Coventry. Mr Robinson said: "Bob has no points of substance.

"His arguments amount to nothing more than assertions with no supporting evidence."

He continued: "Bob is dead wrong here.

"The existing rail network can be expanded much more cost effectively by investing in new trains, electrification and extended platforms - at a fraction of the cost of building HS2 - and giving far better and more extensive regional coverage."

Mr Robinson contests Mr Ainsworth's argument that the current West Coast mainline through Coventry station cannot be expanded. He said an alternative Department for Transport plan stated capacity on the existing line could be expanded by two-thirds with more trains and longer trains, costing just pounds 2bn.

He continued: "The severe congestion on the M1 will be relieved by just two per cent by HS2.

"Larger reduction at much less cost can be achieved by expanding the existing network.

"The best solution for development of Heathrow could be a third runway - which would do far more for growth and jobs for the UK than HS2."

Mr Robinson said a new high-speed rail station near the NEC makes "no more sense for our city than it does for Birmingham".

He added experts had disputed the government's business case, including "exaggerated" estimates that demand for train travel would more than treble; while experts at Imperial College concluded the potential for economic growth from HS2 was "very small".

He said Professor Overman of the London School of Economics had concluded the high-speed line would mainly benefit London, stating there was no evidence it would boost the regions.

Mr Robinson, a former Treasury minister, said: "In my experience at the Treasury I never met a single project that relied on such unsustainable premises as those put up to justify this project."

The free public debate, open to everyone, is hosted by the Coventry Telegraph at the Chamber of Commerce at Binley Business Park on February 11 at 12pm. 11 at 12pm.

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'BOB'S DEAD WRONG': City Labour MPs Geoffrey Robinson and Bob Ainsworth
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 29, 2011
Words:423
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