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High-speed route will be designed with 'maximum sensitivity'

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The route of the proposed high-speed rail (HSR) project will be decided with “maximum sensitivity” to communities along the line, Philip Hammond has said

The Transport Secretary said he would be visiting areas along the proposed route over the summer.

He told MPs he understood the need to balance the economic advantages provided by the HSR line with the ‘environmental disbenefits’ that would be suffered along the route.

The first stage of the proposed £30 billion network will be the line from London to Birmingham.

At Commons question time Tory Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) said: ‘Although high-speed rail services are important to our economy, many communities along the route, whatever may be chosen, will be adversely affected including some communities in my own constituency.’

He urged Hammond to ‘mitigate as far as he can’ the impact on towns and villages along the route.

Hammond said: ‘We well understand that the national strategic economic benefits of the high-speed rail network have to be balanced against local environmental disbenefits.

‘Of course the project will be designed with the maximum sensitivity in mind.

‘I will be visiting during the course of the summer recess the course of the proposed route.’

Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) questioned how people would be encouraged to use HSR trains as an alternative to cheaper domestic flights.

‘Given the rising cost of rail compared to flying what will you do to get the price mechanism right to get this shift from air to rail’”

Hammond said the HSR project would result in a ‘massive increase’ in capacity on the network.

Postscript 21.12.10

High-speed rail link plans unveiled

Plans for a £33 billion high-speed rail (HSR) network from London to Birmingham and on to northern England have been unveiled by the Government.

Half the route originally proposed has been changed but the first London-Birmingham phase of the project will have no direct link to Heathrow airport, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced.

He said there would be a spur to Heathrow, but that would be part of the second, north-of-Birmingham, phase of the project,

This would mean the spur would not be finished until around the mid-2030s and would open at the same time as the routes to Manchester and Leeds.

Until then Heathrow-bound passengers would be able to change to fast Heathrow Express services at Old Oak Common in north west London and there would be a direct interchange with the cross-London Crossrail line

Hammond also ruled out a direct link from the London-Birmingham line - known as HS2 - to HS1, which is the London to Folkestone Channel Tunnel high-speed rail link.

Instead, there will be a connection to HS1 via a new tunnel from Old Oak Common.

Publishing details of the London to Birmingham route, Mr Hammond said around 50% of the route first proposed by the Labour Government earlier this year had been amended.

This has followed vehement opposition to the line from those living in Tory heartlands in the Home Counties and South Midlands.

Pictured top

The so-called ‘Concorde of the Rails’ designed by Paul Priestman, the man behind the Pendolino. The conceptual design has been put forward as a contender to run on the new HSR link.

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