Brown backs high-speed rail vision

Gordon Brown has given the strongest indication yet that Labour will back plans to build a multibillion-pound high-speed rail line to the Midlands after admitting that the Government needed to "move further, faster" in adopting the technology.

The Prime Minister had been reluctant to reveal his views on a new high-speed rail line, which had looked increasingly unlikely to receive his backing because of the huge costs involved. But in a pamphlet prepared for the Labour Party conference, and seen by The Independent, Mr Brown said that Britain needed to "show how we are going to be part of the high-speed rail revolution sweeping across the world".

He has come under pressure from Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, who has privately made it clear that support for the high-speed line is a "make or break" issue for him. His aides hope that Mr Brown will commit to finding the tens of billions of pounds needed to push ahead.

In his foreword to the pamphlet, Fast Forwards; Labour's Case for High Speed Rail, Mr Brown said: "I am excited by the role that high speed rail could play in a low-carbon future. High-speed rail would provide a fast, low-carbon network linking the nations and regions of the UK," he said. "It is telling that those countries that have built high-speed rail are now building more of it. The figures are compelling: there is currently 5,598km of high speed lines in Europe, 3,474km under construction and a further 8,500km planned....

"As a country we need to now move further, faster. We must show how we are going to be part of the high-speed rail revolution sweeping across the world."

A source at No 10 confirmed that it was the furthest the Prime Minister had ever gone in supporting the new line, but said that it was too soon to say whether it would be included in the party's next manifesto.

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