Tom Keighley

High speed rail given the green light

The first phase of the controversial High Speed Rail link connecting London and Birmingham has been given the go-ahead by the Government.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced plans this morning, which aims to cut journey times between the two cities to 49 minutes.

Opponents of the scheme say it will not deliver value for money, and that it poses environmental damage.

A second phase of the project would link Manchester and Leeds by 2033, although there has been no confirmed extension of the network further North as yet.

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the NECC, said: “NECC has long been a passionate advocate of high-speed rail and it is vital that the Government recognises the need to integrate the North East into the network at the earliest opportunity.

“The North East would benefit immensely from high speed rail connectivity. The ability to connect rapidly with customers both here and abroad is vital for the future success of our economy.

“With this in mind, the Government must ensure that the first round of legislation, which will make the high speed rail project possible, gives an unambiguous sign that high speed track will eventually be built in the North East.

“It is concerning that initial estimates suggest it could be two years before HSR legislation is enacted given that the threat of NIMBY-ism and localised political opposition will be ever present.

“If the Government remains committed to HSR then I would urge the Prime Minister to make clear that the bill must become legislation within one year as soon as possible.”

The first phase of the project covers 90 miles, and will be built between 2016 and 2036.

A similar rail link established in Holland has been relatively unsuccessful, as passengers are not willing to pay increased prices.

Chris Meredith, from Midlands based who deal with thousands of small businesses each year, says his firm will not be willing to pay extra to use the service.

Mr Meredith said: “The £32bn earmarked for the project could be better used to improve the existing network or supporting areas of the economy such as start-up businesses.

“Added to this the fact that the price of using the service is predicted to be particularly high and it becomes clear that most of us won’t be able to take advantage of what is going to be an extremely expensive service.

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