A new £30 billion high-speed rail (HSR) network, with 250mph trains, was announced today by the Government – with a station set to open in Birmingham’s Eastside.
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis gave Labour’s backing to a new 335-mile London to Scotland HSR network which would drastically reduce rail journey times.
Running from Euston, the first part of the route - from London to Birmingham - would start in 2017, cost between £15.8 billion and £17.4 billion and would reduce the journey time between the UK’s two biggest cities to between 30 and 50 minutes.
Lord Adonis said the Government supported a network of lines, with HSR lines north of Birmingham running either side of the Pennines to Manchester, the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds as well as to Liverpool, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
He said the Birmingham city centre terminus for the HSR network would be at Curzon Street and there would be interchange stations with the cross-London Crossrail project west of Paddington in west London and near to Birmingham airport.
Journey times between London and Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield would come down from around two hours 10 minutes now to 75 minutes when the new network is in place. London to Glasgow and Edinburgh journey times would be reduced to just three and a half hours.
Lord Adonis said the Crossrail Interchange station near Paddington would provide an 11-minute express service to Heathrow.
But he did not entirely rule out the west London airport having its own HSR station, announcing that former Tory transport secretary Lord Mawhinney had been asked to advise on the best way forward for Heathrow.
Today’s Government announcement was based on its broad acceptance of a report on HSR by the Whitehall-commissioned HS2 company, which provided a highly-detailed routing and costing for a London-Birmingham HSR line as well as broader options for high-speed lines north of the West Midlands.
Lord Adonis said the Government endorsed the HS2 London-Birmingham route subject to further work which he has commissioned on mitigation and to subsequent public consultation.
The line will go through part of the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire - a Tory heartland and area of natural beauty.
Lord Adonis said he was publishing details today of an exceptional hardship scheme for those whose properties might be directly affected by the new line.
Lord Adonis said HS2’s recommended route would pass in tunnel from Euston to the Crossrail interchange station west of Paddington. It would leave London via the Ruislip area in west London, making use of an existing rail corridor. It would then pass by Amersham in Buckinghamshire in tunnel towards Aylesbury, before following the route of the A413 past Wendover.
North of the Chilterns, the recommended route would follow in part the disused Great Central rail alignment before passing Brackley in Northamptonshire and entering Warwickshire.
It would then skirt to the east of Birmingham, to enter the city via a short link, alongside an existing rail line, beginning in the Water Orton area, with the main line extending north to the West Coast Main Line near Lichfield in Staffordshire.
Lord Adonis said the HSR network would create an estimated 10,000 jobs. The cost per mile of HSR beyond Birmingham would be around half that of the cost per mile of the route from London to the West Midlands city.
The overall cost of about £30 billion would be phased over more than a decade after the start of construction which would not be until after the completion of Crossrail in 2017.
Lord Adonis said he wanted to make the assurance that "only once full public consultation on the Government’s proposed strategy and recommended route is complete, and its results fully appraised, will the Government make firm decisions".
Responding to today’s announcement, shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: "The Conservatives transformed the debate when we promised to build a north-south line. And while we are part of the growing consensus backing HSR, we are adamant that Britain’s high-speed solution must be the right one for the environment and for the economy.
"Labour have betrayed the vision we set out three years ago for HSR. In leaving out Heathrow and setting out plans that give no firm guarantees north of the Midlands, Labour’s plans are flawed both by lack of ambition and undermined by their inability to grasp the basic truth that high speed rail should be an alternative to a third runway (at Heathrow) not an addition to it.
"The decisions we make now will have a profound impact on our transport system for generations to come. Only a Conservative government has the energy, the leadership and values to deliver HSR’s full potential for Britain."