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High-speed rail route to be announced

The preferred route for the costly and controversial HS2 high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham is expected to be announced tomorrow by the Government.

Running from central London through Tory heartlands to the West Midlands, the multibillion-pound line, with its 250mph trains, is opposed by a number of Conservative MPs.

Residents' groups and local councils are also vehemently against the line which will pass through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Due to be started in 2015, the line lies at the centre of the Government's transport policy, particularly as it has ruled out new runways in south east England airports.

The line was first announced earlier this year by the then Transport Secretary Lord Adonis following an exhaustive feasibility study. Labour also announced plans for a Y-shaped network of high-speed lines which could later extend the fast trains north of Birmingham to northern England and Scotland.

The coalition Government, which also favours the Y-shaped approach north of Birmingham, has been reviewing the London to Birmingham route which could cost as much as £17 billion, with the entire scheme being about £30 billion.

London to Birmingham journey times could come down to between 30 and 50 minutes, with the Government convinced that the line will give the economy an enormous, and environmentally-friendly, boost.

If the Government sticks to the Adonis plan, the line would run in a tunnel from a rebuilt Euston station in London, surfacing in west London.

It would then follow the route of the existing Chiltern Line, passing close to Ruislip in west London and then proceed largely in tunnel from the M25 as far as Amersham in Buckinghamshire.

It would then continue to the west of Wendover and Aylesbury, partly in tunnel and partly following the existing A413 road and Chiltern Line corridor.

The next section of the route would make use of the largely-preserved track-bed of the former Great Central Railway before continuing north west through Warwickshire to enter Birmingham close to Water Orton.

The line would terminate at a new city centre station built at Curzon/Fazeley Street in Birmingham's Eastside regeneration area, with the main line extending north to join the West Coast line near Lichfield.

One of those concerned about the line is Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan who is Chesham and Amersham MP. Another Conservative MP anxious about HS2 is Chris White (Warwick and Leamington).

Earlier this month leaders of 18 local authorities met Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to discuss the plans. Chiltern District Council leader Nick Ross said all the leaders were "totally opposed" to HS2.

Bruce Weston, a director of the HS2 Action Alliance, which represents more than 60 groups opposing the new line, said today: "The business case for HS2 just doesn't stack up.

"You would expect local councils who do not have a station on the route to be opposed. But this is not about the route, this is about the fact that it's going to be a waste of money."