Labour to promise high-speed rail link in election manifesto
PM sees chance to be the 'party of action' with precise route and costs for new line
A multi-billion pound pledge to build a high-speed rail link is set to be included as a key measure in Labour's manifesto for the next election, The Independent has been told.
All the political parties have pledged support for some kind of high-speed rail network for Britain. But senior Government figures believe that by presenting the electorate with a timetable, costs and a precise route for a new line, they can become the "party of action".
Work looks likely to begin on a new high-speed track between London and Birmingham in 2017, with the first trains running on the line by 2025. The Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, is also keen to firm up a wider commitment to extend the track to Scotland, which could almost halve journey times between London and Glasgow.
The costs involved in constructing the line, which will involve a new station in Birmingham, are enormous. The Independent understands that Lord Adonis has been warned that Network Rail's £34bn calculation for a London to Scotland line was "a bit light". However, officials believe it can be afforded as costs would be spread over several years.
The Government has set up a company, High Speed Two (HS2), headed by Sir David Rowlands, which will provide a detailed plan of a potential London to Birmingham route by the end of the year. "We're talking down to the back gardens that will be affected," said a source close to the company.
Its highly sensitive findings will not be published before the Department for Transport has prepared its response. Officials fear that doing so would provoke legal action from people living in areas mentioned in the report. Lord Adonis will wait until February or March to publish his final policy decision. His conclusions will then be included as a manifesto pledge for Labour's election battle.
Stephen Joseph, the executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said that the pledge must not be made at the expense of improvements on the existing rail network. "It is crucial for us to see what else is in the Government's package for transport," he said. "We would also like to see if it will come with a decision to back down over building a third runway at Heathrow."
Sources close to HS2 said a strong business case had emerged for building another new parkway station in the West Midlands, but that any political pressure to include more stations along the route would severely damage the time-saving advantages provided by the high-speed services. Every new station would mean an extra 10 minutes on journey times.
Gordon Brown will lend his support to the high-speed rail plans during his speech to the CBI conference today. "We could achieve a European network of train services that takes us quickly not just to Paris and Brussels but quickly to Cologne and to Amsterdam. And one that starts not just in London but in the north of our country," he is expected to say.
The Government will frame its commitment to high-speed rail as part of its battle to reduce domestic flights and carbon emissions.
"The decision we take in the New Year will be the most important transport policy decision before the next election. With the right plan, the right resources and the right commitment we could have the first part of the north-south high speed line open and carrying passengers within 10 to fifteen years."
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...