Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers reinforced the Conservative party’s commitment to high speed rail at recent ICE West Midlands event.
Villiers reiterated how her party is putting high speed rail at the heart of its vision for the future of travel in the UK. The Conservatives’ vision includes a high speed link connecting London with Birmingham, Manchester and across the Pennines to Leeds. Also planned is a line to Newcastle and Scotland, and ultimately a national network connecting all of the UK’s major cities.
The high speed rail plan will have many benefits. It will increase speed and reliability, reduce crowding on the existing network and have environmental advantages. The plans could also have a major economic and social impact on the future regeneration of Birmingham and other towns and cities across the UK.
Villiers said: “It’s self evident that the West Midlands is an appropriate place to reflect on the future for high speed rail in Britain, as it situated at the hub of so many of our nation’s most important rail and road routes. “I strongly believe that one of the major benefits of the Conservative plans for high speed rail is that constructing High Speed 2 will help cement Birmingham’s place in the list of leading European cities, and significantly open up opportunities for increased investment and business links with mainland Europe.”
The Fast Track to the West Midlands event was sponsored by Arup, whose Heathrow Hub proposals would play a large part in the Conservatives’ plans.
Villiers explained the scheme would have huge implications for linking the West Midlands, not only to Heathrow airport but also, to the European high speed network. It will also play a fundamental role in high speed rail, replacing the demand for short haul air travel within and to and from the UK. Villiers said that the UK needs a bigger vision for high speed rail than has currently been delivered. She said that she would focus on the challenge of building crossparty consensus and delivering a nationwide rail network that could do so much to transform the transport system.
Former ICE president Colin Clinton praised Villiers’ vision, and efforts to champion major transport projects, which will be focused on the regions, and not just the capital.