Posted 25th May 2010 | 4 Comments

Government reaffirms commitment to High Speed rail

THE NEW coalition government has reaffirmed its commitment to building a High Speed rail network in Britain, by including plans for a draft Bill in the Queen's Speech at today's ceremonial opening of Parliament.

The speech was crowded, including plans for no fewer than 22 Bills.

However, this total does not include the proposal for a draft High Speed rail measure, which is to be introduced ‘in due course’.

All three main parties had supported domestic High Speed rail lines in principle before the General Election, although some of the details were different. In particular, the Labour government did not favour building a High Speed station within Heathrow Airport, arguing that there was no obvious single site among the widely dispersed terminals.

The Conservatives did not agree, and indeed the new transport secretary Philip Hammond has already mentioned linking Heathrow to the new line from London to the West Midlands, which has been dubbed HS2.

Today, Her Majesty told Lords and MPs that her government would ‘enable the construction of a high-speed network’, although no details of routes or a legislative timetable were given. It has already been expected that construction would not begin before 2015 at the earliest.

The government will give further attention to how HS2 could be linked to the existing HS1 300 km/h route between London and the Channel Tunnel, and will also introduce commercial regulation of airports.

High Speed rail connecting London and Scotland via the major cities of the Midlands and Northern England is now generally accepted to be the most effective way of reducing domestic short-haul flights in the longer term, and also relieving the trunk road and motorway networks as part of the move towards a low-carbon economy.

ATOC has welcomed the High Speed plan. Chief Executive Michael Roberts said: “The commitment that the Government has shown to High Speed confirms rail as central to the future success of the British economy. High Speed rail has the potential to alter radically the way that people travel between main cities.

“The plans must be affordable at a time of real constraint in the public finances, and show how High Speed rail will be paid for while continuing to invest in the existing network. To keep the cost down for the taxpayer, we need to make the most of the private sector in delivering and operating High Speed.

“Ministers should draw on the considerable knowledge and experience of train companies in making sure High Speed rail meets the needs of passengers and businesses.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Rocket, Suffolk

    Working on the railway, i think the money could be spent elsewhere. Why have a high speed link in a small country like ours, just knock off 30 minutes if that. When the railway runs ok you can get halfway up the country in 2 hours approx or less ( Birmingham, Manchester, York etc). Where is this high speed line going to go ????, no doubt more house's will have compulsory buys on them like when the West Coast upgrade happened, another waste of money for a few miles. The only pro in this, maybe you could go from the North to Europe, but knowing the railway you would have to go to St Pancras and change.

  • James barlow, sheffield

    Really hope it goes ahead the space on WC main line would be vital in a shift to railfreight.
    Also has anyone heard if any electrification projects have been scrapped yet. GWML and the manchester to liverpool/preston lines were agreed and in planning. Hopefully still going ahead heard nothin on contrary. ANyone know?

  • nick, herts

    I live near the East Coast mainline from Edinburgh to London Kings Cross and in fact can here a 100mph electric commuter train in the distance now but it isnt very loud at all. Edinburgh is currently about 4hrs 15min by the quickest train which isnt bad for a 400 mile journey and is almost competitive with the door to door air journey. I love the idea of a 240mph railway but would settle for 155mph if that meant building the hsr. Maybe we should look at not how fast we can go but how fast we need to in order to encourage migration to the railway.

    I can understand how people living in a quiet beautiful part of the country would be opposed to hsr, particularly as there aren't any plans to provide an intermediate station - perhaps this should be considered. Under the plans by the previous government the line through the Chilterns would be in tunnel then shadowing an existing road and then following the route of a previous currently disused railway. The area is also by disected by a motorway which was built about 20 years ago.

    There are arguments against hsr but at least the crazy third runway has been dropped which would have completely destroyed several villages ! The co2 argument against rail is not really proven as the comparison should not be made between hsr and ordinary rail but rather road and short haul flights for which it obviously produces less. the point is that in order to take traffice from these other modes the speed must be increased beyong the current 125 mph but as I said above maybe in the UK speeds as high as 240mph may not be required but nice to have !

    HSR would obviously take traffic from the classic rail network but then the classic network would have more capacity to enable further modal shift. Also if those against or concerned by hsr want compensation if their property values fall will they be willing to pay extra if their values go up as is most likely ? The whole basis of the London Crossrail now hopefully still being built was that businesses would pay higher rates and maybe also private properties rates might go up. It is tru that the majority of the new line will be in tunnel but it will obvoiusly increase greatly the number of trains on the lines it connects with.

    I applaud the new government for cancelling the third runway and also for stating that we will have hsr at some point anyway ! It is also important that the line be connected to high speed 1 to the continent to allow direct throught trains. I believe we should concentrate on building the actual railway and add or upgrade the stations later as this would spread the cost out and mean we could possibly have the lines built sooner.

  • Craig Ward, BLACKBURN, UK

    Hope the previous government's electrification programme is still going ahead as that would create jobs and help economic regeneration. Much of the electrification in the south took place in the recessin of the 1930's.