North-South rail line 'to cost £15bn'

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The Independent Online

A high-speed rail between London and Scotland would cost about £15bn and should use conventional 186mph technology rather than the super-fast "magnetic levitation" system, according to the infrastructure company Network Rail.

In its first detailed pronouncement on plans for a dedicated express north-south route, the state-backed organisation declared a business case could be made for the project without the need for public subsidy.

Iain Coucher, the deputy chief executive, said the precise route should be driven by "the ability to generate revenue" and that would mean a line which would link the capital with Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Trains on such a route, which has yet to get the go-ahead, would cover the journey from London to Glasgow or Edinburgh in just two hours and 35 minutes.

That would deliver the biggest shift of passengers from air to rail and offer the largest relief to the two existing rail links between London and Glasgow and London and Edinburgh.

In a speech at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London, Mr Coucher said "Maglev", or magnetic levitation technology, which could propel trains at speeds up to 270mph, was "yet unproven". Using the existing systems, he estimated running costs at £200m a year with revenue at £2bn a year.

The Government's views on the line are likely to be given in a railways White Paper due next year.