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SRA cool on Liverpool-Heathrow train link plan

PLANS FOR a new 650km high speed passenger rail link between Liverpool and Heathrow Airport this week met with a cool reception from the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA).

The SRA is examining plans for a freight only link between the north west and the Channel Tunnel. It said it was unaware of the passenger link proposals.

Anglo-French rail freight company Central Railway announced the new proposals on Monday.

It wants to run European-style double deck trains over part of a planned new £5.5bn freight route with a larger loading gauge designed to accommodate lorries-on-trains services.

Creating the continental gauge route would involve upgrading or expanding 340km of existing track and rebuilding 130km of long-abandoned sections of the old Great Central line between Sheffield and Oxford.

As well as link the north west to Heathrow, the line will also connect to the Channel Tunnel.

There will be 47km of new track south west of London including a 15km tunnel under the Downs.

Central Railways technical director Clarke Rees said the plan was to build this section 'as close to the M25 as the Highways Agency will let us'.

A new spur from a proposed road/rail interchange on the M4 could carry trains into Heathrow's proposed Terminal 5.

The SRA expressed serious doubts about the planning issues involved in the proposals for the section south west of London.

'We are carrying out a high level study into Central's freight proposals on behalf of government, but have not been asked to consider any use of the proposed line for passenger services, ' a SRA spokesman said on Monday.

'We still have doubts about the planning issues, and remain to be convinced that the project offers value for money.'

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