Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

High-speed rail link considered

The plan would involve either a new track or new trains on existing rails

The UK Government is to create a new company - High Speed 2 - to consider the case for new high-speed rail services from London to Scotland.

The announcement came as Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon gave the go-ahead to plans for a new runway at Heathrow.

As a first stage, the new company would develop proposals for a new line between London and the West Midlands.

Mr Hoon told the Commons the link would use either an entirely new line or existing lines with new trains.

He said it would provide a direct link with a hub at Heathrow.

He added: "[The Heathrow hub would] provide a direct four-way interchange between the airport, the new north-south line, existing GW services and Crossrail into the centre of London."

This is a matter of national economic importance, and we cannot afford any delay
Liz Cameron
Scottish Chambers of Commerce

The SNP's John Mason suggested the Heathrow runway was being given more importance than any rail improvements.

He said: "If we are serious about the environment then surely we need to move as many people out of planes and into trains and that is particularly relevant for Glasgow and Edinburgh and should it not be a higher priority to speed up the west coast and east coast main lines, especially beyond Preston."

Mr Hoon responded: "It is an equal priority, not only to speed up journey times across the UK, but we have to recognise that internationally we need to have effective communications around the world. We need to do both."

Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the Heathrow announcement.

She said: "The combination of a third Heathrow runway and a High Speed Rail network would help bring the British transport system into the 21st century and would deliver tangible economic benefits to Scotland.

"We must now hope that this new project can be progressed as quickly as possible and that the runway is completed on schedule in ten years time. This is a matter of national economic importance, and we cannot afford any delay."

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