ASLEF High speed rail plans will help catch up

11 March 2010

ASLEF welcomes today’s announcement of government plans to run a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham – but feels more vision and ambition is needed to provide adequate rail services for the future. ‘Although this is a high-speed initiative, we’re still playing ‘catch-up’ with the rest of Europe,’ says general secretary Keith Norman.

The government plans outlined by Lord Adonis today have suggested a 250 mph line between the capital and the Midlands, and tentative ideas about extending it northwards. But the announcement needs to be tempered with the news that, even if it goes ahead, it won’t be ready for service for another 15 years.

There will be controversy about the route of the proposed line as it passes through the Chilterns, an area of outstanding natural beauty. ‘But I see nothing ugly about a train,’ says Keith. ‘How would they feel about a motorway?’

ASLEF welcomes any plans to improve and extend the network - and thereby providing clean transport with environmental benefits and positive effects on road congestion. But it also argues for a high-speed link to Heathrow, which would help cut unnecessary internal flights especially if the planned route ran to Scotland.

‘The public must also be assured that the funding for high-speed will not be poached from the development or improvement of ‘traditional’ rail lines - and we must be assured that it will not mean a cut-back on incentives to increase freight on rail,’ Keith says.

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