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High speed rail to Manchester mooted in Eddidngton response

The Department for Transport has resurrected the possibility of a dedicated London-Birmingham-Manchester high-speed line in its response to the Eddington and Stern studies into the future of transport and climate change.

The report, released today by transport secretary Ruth Kelly, outlines its response to former British Airways boss Sir Rod Eddington's investigation into the links between transport and economic growth, published in December 2006, and the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change, published in October 2006.

Eddington's report concluded that new transport links are largely unnecessary, and that a targeted approach to tackling congestion would be better. He also proposed the introduction of road user charging. Stern proposed investment to mitigate against climate change now, to avoid greater costs in the future.

Eddington did comment on high speed rail in his report, saying that it was out of the question for 'unproven technology', which he later clarified to mean Maglev.

The DfT report now highlights the 'problem' of the London-Birmingham-Manchester corridor, which is highly congested.

According to the Government report, "The next step is to generate a broad range of options. This might include widening of motorways, active traffic management, road-pricing, or the construction of new rail capacity either through a conventional (c. 125 mph) or a high-speed (c. 200 mph) line.

"Equally, the right solution might be a combination of two or more of these ... Value for money will be a key consideration," it read.

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly said, "Our aim is to support people's desire for mobility whilst ensuring that transport contributes to the overall reduction in carbon emissions.

"This framework document will help us deliver a transport system that meets that aim and dispels the myth that as an economy we face the false choice of being 'poor and green' or 'rich and dirty'.

"It gives us the opportunity to deliver, for the first time, a 'pro-green/pro-growth' agenda for transport in the short and medium term.

"It is a process that is backed up by a long term funding commitment and will include the serious engagement of passengers, transport users and other key organisations".

The Government will now review the evidence and publish a green paper and launch a formal consultation in the spring. It has also published a timetable to selection of solutions in 2012, based on the five 'goals':

- Maximising the overall competitiveness and productivity of the national economy, so as to achieve a sustained high level of GDP growth.

- Reducing transport’s emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, with the desired outcome of avoiding dangerous climate change.

- Contributing to better health and longer life-expectancy through reducing the risk of death, injury or illness arising from transport, and promoting travel modes that are beneficial to health.

- Improving quality of life for transport users and non-transport users, including through a healthy natural environment, with the desired outcome of improved well-being for all.

- Promoting greater equality of transport opportunity for all citizens, with the desired outcome of achieving a fairer society.

Eddington said, "My Study was clear that the performance of the UK's transport networks will be crucial in sustaining the UK's competitiveness. The Study was equally clear that, to meet both its economic and environmental challenges, the transport sector needs to pay its full costs. I also recommended that, in the long term, the policy making process needed to adapt to meet those challenges."

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