AIRPORT bosses are to warn the Government its high speed rail plans must not come at the cost of reduced investment in other links to the region.
Newcastle Airport is preparing its response to the Government’s consultation on plans for a High Speed Rail link, which will affect the North East.
Although the new line itself will not come the region, only the trains, ministers say they need the region’s help in the face of strong opposition from Southern Conservative constituencies through whose land the new railway will pass.
The Department for Transport say the £32bn spent on the line will bring economic benefits to the UK and it forms one of the biggest coalition spending commitments.
But concerns will be raised from airport bosses who say that while they welcome the new line, it should not be the Government’s only proposals to increase links to the region.
Graeme Mason, planning and corporate affairs director, at the airport, says the region can not depend just on rail links.
His argument was reinforced by last week’s train chaos which saw thousands unable to travel past York in either direction due to signal failures.
The airport has seen a big push for its customers by nationalised rail provider East Coast, which has used a series of adverts to try and increase passenger numbers.
That competition was said to be one of the contributing factors to Easyjet’s announcement in February to pull out of the Newcastle to Stanstead route.
Mr Mason said: “We will be responding to the High Speed Rail consultation in due course, but the weekend’s problems on the East Coast Main Line really do highlight how much the region needs its rail and air links.
“There have been times in the past when rail has taken the strain, and there have been other times when air services have come to the rescue. Some of the adverting by East Coast has been a bit below the belt. Maybe now is the time for a more grown-up approach.”
He added: “We continue to work hard to secure a replacement airline to operate the Stansted service.
“This particular route is a classic example of where rail cannot provide an adequate service for all of the displaced customers. We have business people who need to get to and from places like Chelmsford and Colchester.
“By train, with a journey time of well over five hours each way, this is just not possible. With a mix of rail and air, people and businesses in the region get a choice. The greater the choice, the more competitive the regional economy will be.”
Last week The Journal revealed rail figures which show that the high speed rail Newcastle to London journey time of two hours 37 minutes could be achieved on the existing line.
Experts say £7bn spent on improving pinch points and building tunnels could allow trains to regularly achieve this journey time, although the same improvements would also bring down the high speed rail predicted times as well.