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High-speed route focused on communities, says Hammond

The route of the proposed high-speed rail project will be decided with “maximum sensitivity” to communities along the line, transport secretary Philip Hammond has said.

He said he would be visiting areas along the proposed route over the summer.

He told MPs he understood the need to balance the economic advantages provided by the HSR line with the “environmental disbenefits” that would be suffered along the route.

The first stage of the proposed £30bn network will be the line from London to Birmingham.

At Commons question time Tory Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) said: “Although high-speed rail services are important to our economy, many communities along the route, whatever may be chosen, will be adversely affected including some communities in my own constituency.”

He urged Mr Hammond to “mitigate as far as he can” the impact on towns and villages along the route.

Mr Hammond said: “We well understand that the national strategic economic benefits of the high-speed rail network have to be balanced against local environmental disbenefits.

“Of course the project will be designed with the maximum sensitivity in mind.

“I will be visiting during the course of the summer recess the course of the proposed route.”

Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson (E Dunbartonshire) questioned how people would be encouraged to use HSR trains as an alternative to cheaper domestic flights.

“Given the rising cost of rail compared to flying what will you do to get the price mechanism right to get this shift from air to rail?”

Hammond said the rail project would result in a “massive increase” in capacity on the network.

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