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Cross party support needed for High Speed Rail, says shadow transport secretary

Conservative transport secretary Theresa Villiers today called for cross-party party consensus to push through high speed rail plans.

Villiers revealed ambitious plans to build a new high speed rail line from London, via a Heathrow 'hub' with links to the existing rail network, and north to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Speaking to NCE at Civils 2008, Villiers said it would be "great" if the government supported the Conservative plans.

"There is a handicap for taking forward major improvements, because the timescale for transport improvements is longer then the 4-5 year time horizon that most politicians have to deal with.

"I think it is in the national interest to get all political parties backing transport improvements like high speed rail. If it means some of the distinctions between us are blurred come the next election, then I am happy with that, because it , then I'm happy with that. The important thing is to lead the debate and get this thing built because it will have such benefit for the country as a whole."

Villiers said again that the Conservatives will maintain their opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport.

"In parliament [transport secretary]Geoff Hoon was adamant he would press ahead with that, so there will be a distinct difference there," she said.

Villiers said under the economic downturn, it was important not to increase borrowing and ensure projects were affordable.

"We will take a fiscally responsible approach to public spending," she said, adding that party commitments to both high speed rail and Crossrail were affordable.

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