Transport: Wraps come off £33bn high-speed rail plans

Plans for a £33bn high-speed rail (HSR) network from London to Birmingham and on to northern England have been unveiled by the Government.

But the first London-Birmingham phase of the project will have no direct link to Heathrow airport, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced.

He said there would be a spur to Heathrow, but that would be part of the second, north-of-Birmingham, phase of the project,

This would mean the spur would not be finished until around the mid-2030s and would open at the same time as the routes to Manchester and Leeds.

Until then Heathrow-bound passengers would be able to change to fast Heathrow Express services at Old Oak Common in north west London and there would be a direct interchange with the cross-London Crossrail line

Mr Hammond also ruled out a direct link from the London-Birmingham line – known as HS2 – to HS1, which is the London to Folkestone Channel Tunnel high-speed rail link.

Instead, there will be a connection to HS1 via a new tunnel from Old Oak Common.

Publishing details of the London to Birmingham route, Mr Hammond said around 50 per cent of the route first proposed by the Labour Government earlier this year had been amended.

It followed vehement opposition to the line from those living in Tory heartlands in the Home Counties and South Midlands.

The CBI said HS2 "has the potential to deliver real economic and environmental benefits", while the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the line would have "an enormous impact on connectivity between the UK's major cities".

The Institution of Civil Engineers welcomed the line but warned that "actually delivering it still demands the very strongest commitment going forwards, both politically and financially".