Call to start building high-speed rail in North as South steams on

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle
Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle
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LABOUR today piles pressure on the Government to start building the high-speed rail network in Yorkshire at the same time as starting construction in London.

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle said there must be no delay in pressing ahead with the project after the Government put off a final decision on the £32billion network until the new year.

For the first time she has called on Ministers to consider starting construction at both ends of the network – which will also branch from Birmingham to Manchester – instead of starting work in London and only going as far as Birmingham in the first phase.

The call echoes a similar demand from MPs on the Transport select committee last month.

Writing in the Yorkshire Post, Ms Eagle urged the Government to back her call to re-route the network away from the contentious area of the Chilterns where environmental opposition is fierce. She also renewed calls for early legislation to cover the whole route, rather than authorising the London to Birmingham phase first and the northern legs later.

She said: “The Government should accept our alternative plan for high speed rail. It would end many of the divisions and arguments that are putting the project at risk. They should then finally agree to our call for the entire route from London to Yorkshire to be taken through parliament in a single bill, and look at the case for beginning construction at both ends of the line.”

Metro chairman James Lewis said: “Starting construction on the high-speed rail link from both ends simultaneously should bring the opening of the whole route, and the benefits that would bring in terms of the local economy and jobs, forward to a single date.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said it would announce in January whether to proceed with the HS2 project.

He said: “We have already published and consulted on a detailed route from London to Birmingham. Details of the proposed line of route for the legs to Manchester and Leeds are currently being developed for consultation next year. Therefore, starting work from the North would require the project to be delayed.”

Comment: Page 12; Too vital to be shunted aside: Page 13.