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High-speed rail network plans unveiled

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 11 March 2010

The government unveils plans for a high-speed rail network linking London, Birmingham and other major cities across the UK with 250mph trains.

High-speed train, Kent

It is likely to be 2025 at the earliest before the first stage of the plan - from London to Birmingham - is completed.

The second stage is expected to extend from Birmingham through cities such as Manchester and Leeds and up to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Announcing the plans today, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said the London to Birmingham section of the route would run from Euston station in London.

He also backed the the creation of two high-speed forks - one going through the East Midlands to Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle, the other travelling to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow and Edinburgh.

There would also be a Crossrail Interchange station near Paddington, providing a link with Heathrow.

The plans, which will now go out to consultation, have been informed by the report, also being published today, from the government-commissioned body High Speed Two (HS2).

HS2's report envisages 1,100-seater trains with, initially, 14 trains an hour running between London and Birmingham, increasing to 18 an hour if the HSR network is extended beyond Birmingham.

Work on the London-Birmingham link would start in 2017, with the line being operational by the latter part of 2025.

Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: "There is now a broad political consensus that Britain must have an HSR future. High-speed is a vital part of a modern, dynamic economy. By slashing journey times, HSR can drive economic growth and boost jobs.

"It would also take cars and lorries off the road, cut domestic flights and release capacity on the existing rail network, transforming services even for those communities not served directly by a high-speed line. It is the low-carbon, sustainable transport of the future."

But the Conservatives said the government had selected the wrong route for the line, and would make changes if elected to power.

The party also pledged to start work on the line in 2015, two years earlier than the government's plans.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said Labour was making a "big mistake" in not taking HSR through Heathrow airport in west London.

She said: "The next Conservative government will begin work immediately to create an HSR line connecting London and Heathrow with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, with construction to begin in 2015.

"This is the first step towards achieving our vision of a national HSR network to join up major cities across England, Scotland and Wales."

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