Tories pledge on high-speed rail

08 October 2010

Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, insists he will make high-speed rail ‘the mode of choice’ as he told the Tory conference that the government would take fast trains north of Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester and include a link between London and Heathrow Airport.

‘This is undeniably good news if they stick to the pledge,’ says ASLEF general secretary Keith Norman. ‘I was, however, concerned that there was no mention of costings or timings in Mr Hammond’s speech. I hope we can impress upon him the need to get the project up and running. So far the only concrete action is to begin a consultation in 2011.

‘We have delayed long enough – the UK’s total of 68 miles (110 km) of high-speed track looks increasingly paltry as Spain is developing almost 4,000 km and France 2,106 km .’

Keith also has concerns about where the funding will come from as the government hacks away at public spending and was ‘disappointed that a link toScotland appeared not to even be considered’.

Mr Hammond declared his party’s support for the so-called ‘Y’ option in which one branch would go northwest via Manchester and another would go northeast via Leeds. He said the scheme would ‘connect our great population centres and our international gateways, transforming the way Britain works as profoundly as the coming of the original railways did in the mid-19th century’.

However, he has internal problems as Tory MPs threaten to rebel against plans for the line to pass through the picturesque – and rather rich - Chilterns.

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