Tories let the train take the strain

RAILWAYS are to be at the heart of a Conservative transport policy which will see the abandonment of plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport.

Graham Dines

RAILWAYS are to be at the heart of a Conservative transport policy which will see the abandonment of plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said a Conservative government would give the go-ahead for a new rail line between Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London.

In a move that would bring London-Birmingham journey times down to 40 minutes, she said the new high-speed line could be started in 2015 but would take until 2027 to be completed.


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A Conservative government would contribute £1.3 billion a year to the cost of track and land for the high-speed line, which would be met from within current annual levels of Government capital spend on rail.

Ms Villiers said action was needed to beat transport congestion, high-speed rail was the way forward and that expanding Heathrow was beset with problems.

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“With a choice between a train from Manchester to London in an hour and a quarter and sitting in traffic on the M1 and the M6, I know which I'd choose,” said Ms Villiers. “A high-speed link from (London) St Pancras to Heathrow, connecting to the north, could replace up to 66,500 flights a year. That would free up almost a third of the capacity that would be provided if a third runway were built.

“The case for high-speed rail is clear. It would generate huge economic benefits. It would dramatically improve transport links between north and south. And it would give a vitally important boost to our efforts to protect future generations from catastrophic climate change.”

She said a Tory government would open a competition to build the new high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. Heathrow would also be linked into the main rail network.

A journey from London to Manchester, which takes over two hours on the fastest trains, would take just 80 minutes, while Manchester to Leeds times would come down from 55 minutes to just 17 minutes.

A Tory briefing paper said the UK lagged far behind France, Spain, China and much of the Far East in the provision of high speed lines. At present, only the St Pancras route to the Channel Tunnel linking Britain to Paris and Brussels was specially dedicated to trains travelling up to 180mph.

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