The Conservative Party has slammed the government’s high speed rail plans for a lack of detail beyond Birmingham and for failing to focus on a rail hub for Heathrow airport.
Commenting after the High Speed 2 (HS2) company submitted its report on high-speed rail to the Government, shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: “The Government tries to talk big about their high speed rail plans but the problem remains that the remit they have given to HS2 Ltd is to produce a route for London to the West Midlands.
“Under Labour’s plans, anything north of Birmingham remains a matter of speculation. Only the Conservatives have presented a fully costed and timetabled commitment to bring high speed rail to Manchester and Leeds,” she said.
Ministers will be presented with a minutely detailed route - accurate to within 0.5m - for the line as far north as the West Midlands. But HS2 will be less specific about the route and costs of extending the line beyond the West Midlands to Scotland.
Villiers also attacked the plan to build the London terminus in central London. The HS2 team looked at 35 possible sites in London for the high-speed terminus and have settled for a site right in the centre of the capital.
“A further weakness of Labour’s approach is that they have not focused strongly enough on the need for a top class rail hub for Heathrow to connect it to Europe via the HS1 high speed line, to provide an alternative to thousands of short haul flights,” she said.
HS2 will present options for possible connections to Heathrow Airport and to the Channel Tunnel rail link, now known as High Speed 1 (HS1).
Transport secretary Lord Adonis will publish the report in spring 2010. If the Government decides to pursue proposals for high-speed rail, it will publish a White Paper by the end of March 2010.