High-speed rail proposals unveiled

The Government has announced plans for a new £30 billion high-speed rail (HSR) network in Britain, with trains running at up to 250 miles per hour.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis set out proposals for a 335-mile London to Scotland HSR network that would drastically reduce rail journey times.

Running from a rebuilt Euston station in London, the first part of the route - from London to Birmingham - would start in 2017, cost between £15.8bn and £17.4bn and reduce the journey time between the UK's two biggest cities to between 30 and 50 minutes.

Lord Adonis said the Government supported a Y-shaped network, with HSR lines north of Birmingham running either side of the Pennines - one leading to Manchester, the other serving the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds. Trains would then run on to the existing West Coast and East Coast Main Lines, providing through services to Liverpool, Glasgow, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Edinburgh.

Lord Adonis said there would be a new Birmingham City Centre station for the HSR network at Curzon Street, an interchange station with the cross-London Crossrail project at Old Oak Common in west London and another possible interchange near to Birmingham airport.

Journey times between London and Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield would come down from around two hours 10 minutes to just 75 minutes when the new network is in place. London to Glasgow and Edinburgh journey times would be reduced to three-and-a-half hours.

Lord Adonis said the Crossrail Interchange station near Paddington would provide an 11-minute express service to Heathrow. But he did not entirely rule out the airport having its own HSR station, announcing that former Tory transport secretary Lord Mawhinney had been asked to advise on the best way forward for Heathrow.

Thursday's Government announcement was based on its broad acceptance of a report on HSR by the Whitehall-commissioned HS2 company, which provided a highly-detailed routing and costing for a London-Birmingham HSR line as well as broader options for high-speed lines north of the West Midlands.

Lord Adonis said the Government endorsed the HS2 London-Birmingham route subject to further work which he has commissioned on mitigating local impacts and to subsequent public consultation.

The line will go through part of the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire - a Tory heartland and area of natural beauty. Lord Adonis said he was publishing details today of an exceptional hardship scheme for those whose properties might be directly affected by the new line.

There will also be further work to find ways of reducing construction costs and to consider options for connection to the wider European high speed rail network.

Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher commented: "There is now a broad political consensus that Britain must have a high-speed rail future. High-speed is a vital part of a modern, dynamic economy. By slashing journey times, high-speed rail can drive economic growth and boost jobs. It would also take cars and lorries off the road, cut domestic flights and release capacity on the existing rail network; transforming services even for those communities not served directly by a high-speed line."




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