Plans for a £33 bn high-speed rail network from London to Birmingham and on to northern England have been unveiled by the Government, incorporating revisions to the original proposals to reduce the visual and noise impact of the line.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed that the first London-Birmingham phase of the HS2 project will have no direct link to Heathrow airport, but he announced that a spur to Heathrow would be part of the second, north-of-Birmingham, phase.
That would mean the spur would not be finished until around the mid-2030s and would open at the same time as the routes to Manchester and Leeds. Until then Heathrow-bound passengers would be able to change to fast Heathrow Express services at Old Oak Common in north-west London and there would be a direct interchange with the cross-London Crossrail line
Hammond also ruled out a direct link from the London-Birmingham line to HS1, the high-speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel, which is used by international services. Instead, there will be a connection to HS1 via a new tunnel from Old Oak Common.
The completed 'Y'-shaped network would bring the West Midlands within about half an hour of London and would allow journey times of around 80 minutes from Leeds and Manchester to the capital. Connections onto existing tracks would also be included, allowing direct high speed train services to be operated to cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool.
Publishing details of the London to Birmingham route, Mr Hammond said around half of the 127-mile (204km) route first proposed by the Labour Government earlier this year had been amended.
This has followed vehement opposition to the line from those living in Tory heartlands in the Home Counties and South Midlands.
Hammond said: "High speed rail is so important because it has the potential to transform the way Britain works and competes in the 21st century. But I also know there will be less welcome impacts of this new line in some parts of the countryside. Since taking this job I have reviewed all the possible route options in detail as well as travelling the length of the proposed line to talk directly to local people. As a result, I have made a number of changes to the route published by the previous Government."
The Department for Transport is continuing to look at additional mitigation measures to lessen the impact of the line, Hammond said, as well as considering options for providing assistance to those affected by it.