High Speed Rail Plans ‘Lack Ambition’

And leaves Boris Johnson publicly at odds with Conservative colleagues

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HS2 report www.dft.gov.uk/highspeedrail

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Government plans for a new High Speed rail link as an alternative for short haul flights out of Heathrow have been branded ‘unimaginative’ by those opposed to the expansion of the airport claiming that they ‘fall far short of the kind of national network that is needed’.

Called High Speed 2, the route from London to Birmingham and beyond would have its main interchange at Old Oak Common in Park Royal. The line will be able to accommodate trains that travel at up to 250 mph on a preferred route through north-west London, around the south-west of Aylesbury, to the west of Buckingham and the east of Brackley and Banbury, before passing between Leamington Spa and Coventry and to east Birmingham.

It's not only Labour's rail link plans that have been met with criticism, Mayor of London Boris Johnson publicly opposed his own party's blueprint after his colleague Theresa Villiers said that it was 'crucial' that the main interchange should be at Heathrow and not at the Government’s proposed Old Oak Common site.

The shadow transport secretary dismissed the Old Oak Common site as “Wormwood Scrubs International”, saying it was 10 miles from the airport, was not linked to the Tube, and passengers going to Heathrow would have to change trains.

A statement from the Mayor’s said more research was needed. “We must give the utmost consideration to the exact route and where it will stop,” it said. “A central London terminal is essential as well as an interchange with Crossrail to the west of London in order to whisk people to and from Heathrow as speedily as possible.”

Commenting on the plans, MP for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush, Andy Slaughter said, "Old Oak is the logical place to put the London Interchange for High Speed 2, allowing access to Heathrow, Crossrail and the Great Western Railway."

Mr Slaughter said the prospect of a multi-platform national rail centre was great news for his constituents and the whole of London and the UK, but that the construction and development of High Speed Rail should not disrupt the lives of people living in West London or the delicate ecology around Wormwood Scrubs.

The High Speed Route (HS2) will speed commuters from London, via Birmingham and Manchester, to Glasgow in just over two hours. The Government expects the first section, between London and Birmingham, to be completed by 2020.

An HS2 station at Old Oak Common would link Heathrow with rest of the country and act as a major catalyst to regenerate the area, according to reports. Journey times from the Old Oak hub to Heathrow could be just 11 minutes.

A consultation is to take place on the proposed route with the earliest date for the start of construction currently estimated to be 2017. The plan may prove controversial due to the impact on green belt land. Patrick Begg, of the National Trust, said the proposed route could cause "serious and significant impacts on the landscape" of the Chilterns.

March 13, 2010