Posted 11th September 2009 | 2 Comments

City leaders call for network of high speed lines

An Eurostar on Britain's first high-speed line

ELEVEN of Britain's major cities have joined forces to step up the pressure on the Government to build a network of linking high-speed lines across the country.

Leaders from the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield are pressing for the ambitious programme.

The 11 cities which have formed the coalition said in a statement released at a high-speed rail summit in London: "The campaign is deliberately focused on the importance of building a whole network to link all our major economic centres together, not simply a sterile debate about where a first route should go."

The call for such an extensive network contrasts with the current Government plans for the development of one high speed north/south line, with the first part of a route running from London to the West Midlands.

High Speed Two Ltd, a company set up by the Government, is drawing up initial high speed route plans to be presented to transport secretary Lord Adonis by Christmas.

Meanwhile, with the high speed debate now in full swing, Network Rail unveiled plans last month for a new £34 billion line for trains travelling at more than 200 mph connecting major cities in the Midlands and North West and later to Scotland.

This would relieve pressure on the West Coast main line which, despite a £9billion upgrade, is likely to be "full up" by 2020.
But the company says a separate high-speed line to Leeds, via Nottingham and Sheffield, would be needed on the east side of the country to "better serve" those cities.

The report has been condemned by regional leaders in the North East who maintain a high-speed linking network is needed to bring economic benefits to that area.

Other reports have attacked the Network Rail proposals as lacking in "detail and common sense" and point to comments made by Lord Adonis that a new high-speed line must link the North East and North Yorkshire to Manchester and Liverpool.

But Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher has replied to critics saying: "This is a thoughtful piece of research designed to inform us of the options. The decision, in the end, is one for government. It is not a definitive work' this has been done to help inform the public debate on high-speed lines."

During the high-speed summit Conservative shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers, reiterated her party's pledge that if elected a Conservative Government would go ahead with its plans for a new high speed line to Manchester and Leeds.

But this would be a first step with an aspiration for a line to stretch to Newcastle and Scotland in "years to come."

She said planning would take up to five years with no major spending likely until 2015. The taxpayers contribution would be spread over a construction time of around 12 years.

"Given the lead times involved in building new railways, we can no longer put off the decision on a new line. Within ten years extra capacity on the West Coast corridor will not be a 'nice to have' it will be a pressing necessity."

She added that if high speed rail was well connected to Heathrow it would release thousands of landing slots at what is the nation's busiest and most important airport, making it less overcrowded, more resilient and freeing up space for long haul routes to key business destinations.

"In my view these facts alone leave the case for a third runway holed below the water line," she said.

Reader Comments:

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  • Roderick V. Louis, Vancouver, BC,, Canada


    The article makes several unarguable salient points but, similar to just about every major news-media article on the UK economy and the nation's transportation issues recently, it does not delineate potential ways that national-strategies toward a reinvigorated UK economy- and the building of ambitious transportation infrastructure projects- such as high-speed rail and other types of public transport- could complement and assist each other...

    This, instead of a reinvigorated UK economy (or massive loans) having to 'pay for' new UK transportation infrastructure projects like high-speed rail or Tube upgrades...

    With the many billions upon billions of pounds being allocated as UK economic stimulus by the current govt, it could only make constructive sense for some of this money to be put towards the establishment of a rail transport R & D technology centre/campus in the UK... if necessary with the UK govt as a temporary minor shareholder in the venture....

    Such a centre/campus comprising significant representation from a world-class rail technology leader such as Hitatchi, along with a top-drawer UK firm that has cutting-edge complimentary technology expertise, such as Rolls-Royce, would be one way of providing the new centre/campus with automatic positive world-recognition...

    A company like Rolls-Royce paired with an effervescent and competent international partner- such as Hitatchi- with its Japan-based R & D resources- would immeasurably strengthen the viability and export-related potential of products coming out of a UK based "world research & development centre" for rail technology....

    High-speed rail crossing much of the UK and perhaps even to N Ireland ought to have been actioned long ago...

    Whatever improvements to the UK's rail systems that are planned and implemented over the coming years- the export potential of their underlying hardware and related infrastructure components ought to be continually kept by industry and govt as paramount guide posts...

    Similar to Cadbury's recent travails with Kraft, Rolls-Royce needs to either get much bigger & substantially diversify or else risk disappearing because another more avaricious firm takes it over, with the to-be-expected job losses & redundancies....

    The US's General Electric- got that message over a decade ago.

    It's now a leading player in diverse- but related to its core competencies-businesses ranging from aero engines to medical imaging/diagnosing equipment to nuclear/wind power systems...

    Rolls-Royce high-speed trains could be designed to function on "TGV-type tracks", making them interoperable with ones currently running between Waterloo station & Brussels/Paris/other of the Continent’s destinations.

    Hitachi makes Japan's esteemed worldwide high-speed 'bullet trains' & wants to gain a foot-hold in the burgeoning EU market for high-speed and other types of rail transport.

    With UK govt assistance/funding guarantees- if required- Rolls-Royce should enter into talks with Hitachi or a similar company, with the objective of setting up a 'new' multi-national high-speed (& other type) train company: perhaps as "Rolls-Royce high-speed trains plc".

    An industry-leading firm like Rolls-Royce- possessing what is arguably the world’s most recognizable, most marketable & valuable brand name- coupled with the proven high-speed train expertise of a Hitachi &/or a Bombardier would serve to generate significant world-wide public & private interest in 'non-automobile' transportation modes, & could only lead to improvements & breakthroughs in technologies underlying all non-automobile transport types.

    Roderick V. Louis
    Vancouver, BC,

  • John, winchester

    As a business manager I have over the years tried to understand what it is that government actually does??? We vote for them, we pay there salaries and seem to time and time again let them get away with virtually everything. In the age of the internet where it seems most people shop around over the whole world, we as the general public have an endless choice in everything bar one. Who runs the country. When we as members of the public are not satisfied with a service we get, we can change. Only with government it’s a four year contract you cant get out of. And at the end of this contract what choice is there!!! So we let them carry on. One bad decision after another and waste a lot of money

    Example network rail are “ so we are lead to believe “ getting ride of 1800 workers.

    Well there’s an opportunity. People with railway experience, nothing to do, and needing work, could they not start on the electrification project, or build a new high speed line, and if not why not? Lets start asking questions!

    Give them a bonus system similar to the bankers, bets are they would be finished by next Christmas

    In business we manage resources, government waste them. We don’t need a good priminister,
    We need a good business manager.