July 21, 2008

Councils’ Plan for Three-Hour Rail Link Between Scotland and London


A FRESH plan for a new highspeed rail link which would carry passengers between Glasgow and London in just three hours has been released by a consortium of local authorities opposed to the extension of Heathrow .

High Speed North would link Edinburgh and Glasgow to London on a new route built to mirror the path of the M1 motorway with several key branches added to link Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool to the line.

The proposals have been drawn up by railway civil engineer Colin Elliff and put forward by the 2M Group, a body of councils in London and the south-east of England against the building of a third runway at Heathrow.

Mr Elliff said he hoped that High Speed North would eradicate the need for internal UK flights to link the regions to London and make train travel to European destinations a real and viable alternative to short-haul plane journeys. Mr Elliff, 49, who has worked on railway design for 29 years, said: " This plan is about getting connections to Europe without relying on internal flights, which is the way Scotland has gone over the past 20 years, and bringing European destinations closer to the UK."

Mr Elliff has proposed a "single spine" route as an alternative to the two main east coast and west coast routes, supported by key branches to major conurbations in the north of England.

A new interchange would be built around disused track at Cricklewood, in north-west London, which would move passengers into St Pancras International for Eurostar connections and form part of a "compass point" network which would carry travellers to and from Heathrow on an estimated 40 trains per hour.

High Speed North would see more than 800km of new track laid, but with reliance on some existing pieces of network including the Glasgow to Edinburgh line.

It is estimated that the proposal would cost around GBP30bn. Independent consultants have reported that the economic benefits generated by a London to Glasgow high speed link would be at least double that figure.

The 2M proposals come shortly after Network Rail announced five possible cross country high speed lines to run parallel with the existing East and West Coast lines, the Midland mainline, Chiltern line and Great Western lines.

Mr Elliff said his single route solution provided both simplicity and speed.

He said: "The thing about the M1 route is that it is a historic and natural route between north and south. The Romans had Watling Street, then there was the Grand Union Canal and then there was the M1.

"Building along the M1 given the most advanced route in terms of the number of conurbations it takes in."

The effect on the quality of life of a third runway at Heathrow is a major driving force of the 2M Group campaign .

Edwards Lister, leader of Wandsworth 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."

The UK Government supports the expansion of Heathrow Airport. A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "The government has always been ambitious for the railways, making sustained investment over the last 10 years so that now Britain has a successful, growing railway, last year carrying over 1.2 billion passengers."

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Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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