July 19, 2008

New High-Speed Rail Plan Would Negate Heathrow Expansion

By Peter Woodman

A plan for a new north-south pounds 30 billion high speed rail line to Europe will be unveiled next week by councils opposed to Heathrow airport expansion.

Running along the line of the M1, the route would be linked to the West Midlands and make it easier for people in Scotland and northern England to reach Heathrow, reducing the need for connecting flights.

European links via the Channel Tunnel would mean travelers could get from Sheffield to Paris in three hours, Manchester to Amsterdam in four hours and Leeds to Frankfurt in five-and-a-half hours.

The plan, which could be completed by 2030, is being unveiled on Monday by the 2M Group-an all-party alliance of authorities unhappy about development plans at Heathrow.

The group says its plan differs from other high-speed proposals in aiming to connect more UK cities and ensures Heathrow is fully joined to the new network.

Drawn up by chartered civil engineer Colin Elliff the plan envisages:

an England-Scotland spine route with spur connections to outlying cities

the spine would follow the M1 from London and serve Leicester, Nottingham, Shef-field, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh en route to Glasgow

spurs would reach major cites in the Midlands and northern England including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool

it would be built in phases with the first section from London to Leicester, with a branch to Birmingham and connecting to the existing West Coast and Midland Main lines

the second phase would extend from Leicester along the M1/M18 corridor and connect to the East Coast Main Line in Yorkshire

the third phase could extend from Sheffield to Leeds, and follow the disused Wood head line to Manchester.

This would require the former rail tunnel here to be re-opened

the final stages would extend to Liverpool along the M62 corridor and shadow the East Coast Main Line and M8 corridors to Edinburgh and Glasgow

there will also be Heathrow compass points, with up to 40 trains an hour dispersing Heathrow passengers to Home Counties destinations and linking with main line services Edwards Lister, leader of Wands worth Council which is part of the 2M Group, said: "We are delighted to publish these proposals because we want a debate.

We have a Government that can't see further than the next runway.

"It's time for some imagination in UK transport planning.

We don't pretend for one minute we have all the answers but at least we're asking the right questions."

Richmond Council leader Serge Lourie added: "The country's roads are grinding to a halt and all ministers want to do is put more planes in the sky and more cars on the ground.

"Even expanding just the existing Heathrow runways would bring another million road journeys.

The real demand is for sustainable transport options that actually help people and businesses move around the country. "

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: "We have long campaigned for high-speed rail, and the report we commissioned from the Campaign for Better Transport underlines that high-speed rail would make a third runway at Heathrow unnecessary "High-speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs, including at Heathrow, would provide a cleaner option than airport expansion and would bring a bigger financial return.

"We know that where high-speed rail links have been opened there has been a significant switch from air to rail, and that the UK is in danger of being left behind as countries like Spain reap the benefits of massive rail investment."

(c) 2008 Birmingham Post; Birmingham (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.