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Hoon: High Speed Rail under 'consideration'

New transport secretary Geoff Hoon today said High Speed Rail was on the table as a way to improve the transport system.

Hoon said he had appointed new rail minister Lord Adonis to examine how to: "Make best use of our national transport networks and accelerate the process of identifying where future expansion is needed."

He said the work would build on the Sir Rod Eddington's report, "Towards a Sustainable Transport System", published in 2006.

"The Minister of State, Lord Adonis, will chair a national networks strategy group, with senior partners from the Highways Agency, Network Rail, HM Treasury and other Government Departments as required.

"I have asked that the group focus on two issues. First, how to make best use of the existing key networks, for example, by the selective extension of rail electrification or the wider implementation of hard shoulder running on our motorways to provide additional capacity for motorists and to give them greater reliability and choice.

"Alongside this, the study will focus on longer-term solutions for the strategic corridors. This will include consideration of wholly new rail lines, including high speed rail.

"We are committed to developing a modern sustainable rail system that supports economic growth, including housing development, and the climate change agenda. New lines have great potential and it is important that we start now to plan for future growth."

Hoon said that this work would build on existing work by Network Rail, examining new rail lines. "I have asked Lord Adonis to report on progress early in 2009," he said.

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