Helping children from Calais and HS2 Hub for Stafford

This month’s big headline was the arrival of unaccompanied asylum seeking children from Calais to Britain and the closure of the Jungle camp.

Here in Staffordshire we have a proud record of helping those most in need and, working closely with the regional migration team and other West Midlands Authorities, we have extended our offer of help to find placements for some of these children under the Dublin and Dubs 3 Agreements arriving from the Calais camps.  This is in addition to the 50 Syrians we are helping from the refugee camps on the Syrian border earlier this year and 84 young unaccompanied asylum seekers who have arrived in lorries.

While it’s right that we offer immediate support to these vulnerable young people, more needs to be done to discourage people from setting off on the perilous journey across the Sahara and Mediterranean Sea in the first place.

Now to some transport news.  You will already know HS2 is the major new railway that is planned to eventually link London and the north of the country, and will run through 45 miles of Staffordshire and  the council continues to express concerns on the impact of HS2 on Staffordshire.

This week we had the announcement from HS2 Ltd that Stafford will be a hub on the route, opening up opportunities for huge economic benefits for the town and surrounding area.

The hub will see a link between the HS2 line and the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre, which will allow HS2 classic compatible Javelin trains to serve Stafford and the surrounding area. This means hundreds of thousands of people will be able to share in both the swifter journey to London and the economic opportunities that come with it. Work on the project is due to start in 2017 and the finished route would make the journey from Stafford to the capital only 53 minutes, knocking nearly a third off the existing journey time.

While the new hub and the additional economic benefits for the area are great news for Stafford and surrounding towns, our focus still remains getting meaningful compensations for residents affected by the project. Our job, as the county council, is and always will be to continue to ensure our residents’ voices are heard, fight for proper compensation for those affected, make sure that the impact on our environment is minimal and that Staffordshire captures any economic benefits.

In the first phase we succeeded in getting 8km of the route lowered in Lichfield, significantly reducing the impact locally which proves it’s really important that people have their say. As the project progresses too, we will continue to work with HS2 Limited, the Department for Transport and our local communities, to mitigate the impact during construction and operation and get the best result we can for Staffordshire people.

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