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High speed rail in the spotlight

Transport secretary Lord Adonis this week refused to rule out working for a Conservative government if it meant he could complete his project to build high speed rail lines.

Speaking to NCE at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Adonis said he was committed to the Labour Party, but would not rule out working for Conservative leader David Cameron.

“I am a Labour minister in a Labour government working to win at the general election. Taking forward our policies is my priority,” he said.

Adonis has been using the Labour Party Conference to build support for the construction of new high speed rail lines in the UK.

The principle already has cross-party backing and engineers are keen for Adonis to continue his work, regardless of which party wins the next general election.

“We have had far too many transport secretaries, and no continuity. We need continuity to push through these ideas.”

Mark Bostock, Arup

At a Bechtel-hosted conference fringe meeting on high speed rail, Adonis’ efforts as transport secretary were described by Arup director of rail Mark Bostock as “nothing short of remarkable”. “We have had far too many transport secretaries, and no continuity.

“We need continuity to push through these ideas, and I would like to see [Adonis] in place next year and for several years to come, whatever the outcome of an election,” he said.

Other senior construction industry sources echoed Bostock’s view.

Adonis would have to break few ties to work for the Tories. Before becoming an advisor to Tony Blair in 2001, he was not a Labour party member and had supported the SDP and the Liberal Democrats. He joined the government only after the 2005 General Election, when he was given a peerage and made a junior education minister.

He became transport secretary in October last year and has since made high speed rail his top priority.

A no-brainer

Speaking at the conference this week he said building high speed rail lines was a “no-brainer”. “Sanity is to plan for the 21st century with 21st century technology - fast, clean and green. High Speed wins on all counts,” he told delegates.

“For large passenger flows between major cities, it is far more energy efficient than cars and planes. It gives huge extra capacity. It slashes journey times and it takes people to the centre of cities connecting directly into other public transport. That’s why I think that for Britain, high speed rail is a no-brainer.” Chancellor Alistair Darling echoed Adonis’ view in his own conference speech.

“We will invest to make the economy grow. High speed rail links will help us tackle climate change and boost our economy. But they won’t happen without government support.” he said.

Adonis is currently awaiting the report of former Department for Transport chief Sir David Rowlands into routes from London to the West Midlands. These are expected to include plans for a wider network.

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