THE chairman of HS2 Ltd believes residents across Cheshire will benefit from the controversial high-speed railway.

Sir David Higgins spoke to reporters ahead of a meeting with Cllr Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council, at Crewe UTC today, November 23.

His visit to Cheshire came just weeks after Esther McVey, Tatton MP and deputy chief whip for the Conservatives, questioned the need for HS2 at a time technology is changing rapidly and more people want better local services.

But Sir David told the Guardian that passengers across the north should see HS2 as a gateway for better rail services.

“The technology of HS2 is proven and that's really important,” he said.

“I've just come back from two weeks of exploring the rail system in Japan, and the way it has transformed that country and the efficiency of journey time.

“We need to have that so we can compete.

“We need to think of HS2 as a central, very high capacity spine, and therefore the interchanges are really critical.”

Mid Cheshire Against HS2 has spent years passionately urging a rethink on the high-speed railway – with geologist Dr Ros Todhunter having raised fears over the safety of constructing the line through Cheshire’s salt towns.

Safety on the line also hit the headlines in Yorkshire last month, after an eight-metre long crack appeared where HS2 would be built in a former coal mining village near Wakefield.

But Sir David is confident that the project can be delivered safely through mid Cheshire – and he is drawing on his own experience as the leader of English Partnerships, the body which worked to help stabilise Northwich’s foundations more than a decade ago.

“I do understand the complexity of salt mines, it's not easy,” said Sir David.

“That particular part of the country has had a long history of salt mining so there's no obvious route that can go through there without that.

“But you can solve this issue. With the right technical advice you can manage those risks.”

Sir David added that HS2 Ltd is doing ‘an enormous amount of work to minimise the impact’ of constructing the railway on homes and businesses in Cheshire.

But Graham Dellow, from Mid Cheshire Against HS2, is less convinced by Sir David’s words of reassurance.

He told the Guardian: “The problems with Cheshire’s salt mines are such that we don’t believe they are solvable.

“There is an argument that if they throw enough money at it they could overcome it, and HS2 have said exactly that some time ago. But what that will mean is more concrete, which will mean more flooding.

“The country is in a dreadful state financially. There is no ‘money tree’ – and that’s the Government’s words, not ours.

“Other services are going to suffer if all the money for transport goes to HS2. We are already seeing that other projects are being put on hold.”