The Tories have slammed government plans to create a central London high speed rail hub for failing to include a suitable connection to Heathrow airport.
The criticism came as the High Speed 2 (HS2) company submitted its feasibility report on a new high speed rail line from London to Birmingham and the Midlands to the government.
As both the Conservatives and Labour seek to set their policies apart ahead of the General Election, shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Labour has not focused strongly enough on the need for a top class rail hub for Heathrow to connect it to Europe via the HS1 [Channel Tunnel Rail Link], to provide an alternative to thousands of short haul flights.”
Transport secretary Lord Adonis will publish the HS2 report in spring 2010. The report is thought to have settled on a site in the centre of the capital after looking at 35 possible locations for a high speed terminus. The hub will be capable of handling 14, and eventually 18, trains an hour, with 20,000 passengers travelling in and out every hour.
“Labour has not focused strongly enough on the need for a top class rail hub for Heathrow.”
Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers
The 400m long trains, which could travel at 250mph, will be able to carry 1,100 passengers, with the first stage of the new line − from London to the West Midlands −possibly opening in 2025.
It will present options for possible connections to Heathrow airport via a spur and to HS1. It will also look at broader route options from the West Midlands to Scotland.
Ministers will be presented with a minutely detailed route − accurate to within 0.5m − for the line as far north as the West Midlands.
The aim is that the new line will hug the contours of the land while reducing the noise and visual impact as far as possible.
Ministers will also receive a range of costs for the line, for which construction could start in 2017. The London to West Midlands section will contain some tunnels −something which always adds considerably to the cost of a rail project.
HS2 will be less specific about the route and costs of extending the line beyond the West Midlands.
HS2 chairman Sir David Rowlands revealed in November that a spur north of Birmingham would allow both sides of the country to be served.
“We will tell the government that the preferred option from our point of view is a network that certainly serves Manchester as well as places like Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and up to Newcastle and, one way or another, up to Scotland,” he said.