Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

High-speed rail plan to be unveiled

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis is to annouce plans for a high-speed rail network

Plans for a high-speed rail (HSR) network featuring 250mph trains will be announced by the Government.

But it is likely to be 2025 at the earliest before the first section of new track - from London to Birmingham - is completed.

And there is expected to be political and environmental opposition to the plans, which are likely to reveal that the track, capable of accommodating 400 metre-long, 1,100-seater trains, will pass through Tory heartlands in the Chiltern Hills area of Buckinghamshire.

Then there is the problem of financing the multibillion-pound scheme, with some organisations, including the TUC, fearing that HSR will mean other transport projects will become starved of cash.

There is also likely to be a backlash from civic leaders whose areas have not been included on the route on the grounds that the more stops you have, the slower a high-speed route becomes.

Announcing the plans on Thursday, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis is expected to say that the London to Birmingham section of the route will run from a point close to Euston station in London.

The Conservatives, who turned down an invitation to see the plans ahead of the announcement, are keen for the route to go directly to Heathrow airport in west London. But Lord Adonis is thought to be opposed to a direct link, preferring a spur to Heathrow from Old Oak Common in west London.

Passing through the Chilterns, the route could include a new parkway station that would be created close to the National Exhibition Centre outside Birmingham, with trains terminating at a new station in the centre of Birmingham.

As far as HSR north of Birmingham is concerned, it is believed that Lord Adonis could well support the creation of two high-speed forks - one going through the East Midlands to Leeds, the other travelling to Manchester and north west England.

His plans, which will now go out to consultation, have been informed by the report, also being published on Thursday, from the Government-commissioned body High Speed Two (HS2).

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