Transport group backs case for high speed rail link

TRANSPORT chiefs have been urged to consider the need for a high speed rail line running to the North-East.

TRANSPORT chiefs have been urged to consider the need for a high speed rail line running to the North-East.

An influential transport group, Greengauge 21, has urged the Government to drop its opposition to high speed trains and look at the case for improving the region’s economy with better rail links.

Business leaders at yesterday’s annual North-East Economic Forum conference were told by regional development agency boss Alan Clarke that pressure was mounting on the Government to remove “barriers” to growth.

He said: “For example, working through the Northern Way we have demonstrated that investment in a North-South and East-West high speed rail network could deliver an economic growth dividend of £10bn over and above its direct impact for the country as a whole, with as much as £3.5bn of this in the North.

“So we welcome the influential Greengauge 21 report, advocating that potential corridors on both sides of the Pennines are looked at for high speed rail.”

The report offers the Government five options for a future network – one of which is for a route similar to the East Coast Main Line.

Its report warns against simply upgrading the existing line north of Peterborough. Merely improving the existing system, the report states, would gain a small speed increase at the expense of line capacity.

And the report backs calls for a cross-Pennine high speed rail link to form an economic powerhouse in the North.

Alex Watson, chair of the North-East Assembly, has repeatedly called for rail improvements.

He said: “The North-East Assembly welcomes the Greengauge21 report.

“The report contains realistic and robust proposals for developing a high speed rail network for the UK and for bringing high speed rail to North-East England, although at a later stage than preferred.

“Proposals include combining new high speed rail infrastructure with the upgrading of existing facilities which fall in line with the Eddington Study. It further acknowledges the value of boosting investment to the region’s economy through improved connectivity with other regions across the country.”

Communities minister Hazel Blears told conference delegates she was aware of the region’s transport concerns.

She said: “People have said they think there are connectivity problems, and yes there are always improvements, but we have to recognise there are hard choices to be made.

“If we have a limited amount of resources, as the Eddington report said, we have to make the most of the infrastructure in place.”

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