High speed rail to arrive 'in due course'

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Indy Politics

The new Government today confirmed its commitment to the building of a high-speed rail (HSR) network.

But it gave no firm indication of what route the line would take and when work on it would start.



And the Queen's Speech revealed that the hybrid Bill needed to enable work to start would be introduced not now, but "in due course".



Earlier this year the Labour government published a report on an HSR network prepared by a Whitehall-commissioned company HS2.



The report gave details of a £17 billion London to Birmingham HSR route which could be started in 2017 and completed in 2025, with options to take the line further north to link with other high-speed services to northern English cities and to Glasgow.



The report sparked an announcement of HSR plans by Labour, with the line expected to bring London-Birmingham journey times down to around 49 minutes, and journeys from London to Manchester taking just 80 minutes.



A new line could potentially treble maximum capacity on the London to Birmingham route. It is calculated that the line could provide £2 of benefits for every £1 spent, with the bulk of expenditure not being incurred until construction begins.



The HS2 report followed the publication, earlier, of Tory HSR plans which envisaged a 2015 start of a 12-year project which would see an HSR line going from London to Heathrow airport and to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and, eventually, further north to Scotland.



Today, the Government said that its plans for HSR would include links to Heathrow and potentially other airports.



It also said that it would study the options for a link between the new HSR line and the existing High Speed One (HS1) which links London to the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone in Kent.



Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "The commitment that the Government has shown to high speed confirms rail as central to the future success of the British economy. HSR has the potential to alter radically the way that people travel between the UK's main cities.



"The plans must be affordable at a time of real constraint in the public finances and show how HSR will be paid for while continuing to invest in the existing network.



"To keep the cost down for the taxpayer, we need to make the most of the private sector in delivering and operating HSR.



"Ministers should draw on the considerable knowledge and experience of train companies in making sure HSR meets the needs of passengers and businesses."



Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: "Once again, the Government are talking in only the vaguest terms about HSR and the urgently-needed modernisation of the UK's rail network. There is no timetable and no funding commitment - only a vague reference to HSR in 'due course'.



"With Network Rail facing more budget cuts, and with more engineering jobs under threat, the UK will continue to lag behind the rest of Europe in the slow lane when it comes to the modern and environmentally-friendly expansion of the railways."

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