Capital concerns for High-speed rail

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The Independent Online

The Government was today urged to rethink its plans for a new £32 billion high-speed rail route to address a series of concerns about the impact on London.

The London Assembly's transport committee suggested a number of changes to the route between the capital and Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, as well as a new Tube line after warnings that local transport at Euston station could be "swamped" by passengers using the new HS2.

As the Government's consultation on the project came to an end today, ministers were also urged to consider building tunnels for part of the proposed route in west London to spare local residents disruption.

Committee chairwoman Caroline Pidgeon said: "High-speed rail has enormous potential but the current proposals for High Speed 2 fail to properly address the effects it would have on local communities and London's existing transport network.

"Plans for HS2 need considerable work to make them right for London and we hope to see a far more detailed set of proposals that address all of the issues we've raised.

"One of the most critical issues is the absolute necessity of a new Tube line if HS2 goes ahead, so London can cope with the extra passengers it will bring into the capital."

The committee said it also wanted the Government to do more to justify HS2 on economic and transport grounds, and to conduct a detailed evaluation of the additional transport infrastructure needed to make it successful and environmentally sound.

Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said: "The line from London to Birmingham will provide 9,000 construction jobs and 1,500 operational jobs. Forecasters say the first stretch of line will attract 42,000 jobs to London and Birmingham. That is exactly the kind of infrastructure investment this country needs to drag it out of the economic mess we are in.

"RMT is calling for an explicit commitment that the rolling stock for the new high speed network should be built domestically as it is in every other major European country, and we want to see the project developed under public ownership as a public service."

The plans have sharply divided opinion between supporters and those who believe it would be a waste of money, but the Government argues that HS2 would slash journey times and improve connectivity in a way unmatched since the building of motorways in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "London is vital to the UK's economy and improving our transport infrastructure is a necessity. However these proposals need to give consideration to their impact on residents in London.

"There is a great case for investing in a high speed rail network, which has the potential to generate major benefits for both London and the UK, but that must also be supported by the infrastructure for our great city to be able to handle the extra passengers."