Government sees the future of transportation in high speed rail network
As the United States is in the early stages of adding new high speed rail corridors to its one currently in operation, the British government yesterday uncovered its plan for a $45 billion high speed rail corridor that would connect the cities of London and Birmingham, ultimately linking to the northern cities of Manchester and Leeds. Project developers say the 250 mph could cut time to travel the distance between London and Birmingham from 84 minutes down to 49 minutes.
"The time has come for Britain to plan seriously for high-speed rail between our major cities," said Transportation Secretary Lord Adonis. "The high-speed line from London to the Channel tunnel has been a clear success, and many European and Asian countries now have extensive and successful high-speed networks. I believe high-speed rail has a big part to play in Britain's future."
The first phase of the network buildout will cost up to $25 billion for the 128 miles of track from London to the west Midlands, with the projected cost of the full 330-mile network reaching $45 billion. Of course, there are some considerable political obstacles that need to be sorted out, not the least of which is the proposed route.
Members of the opposition Tory Party, who have pledged to build a high-speed network instead of a third runway at Heathrow and to start construction in 2015, attacked the detailed proposal.
"In leaving out Heathrow and setting out plans that give no firm guarantees north of the Midlands," said shadow transport secretary, Theresa Villiers, "Labour's plans are flawed by lack of ambition and undermined by their inability to grasp the basic truth that high-speed rail should be an alternative to a third runway, not an addition to it."
As the plan is currently drawn up, over four hundred homes will need to be relocated or demolished to make way for the high speed route between London and Buckinghamshire. And the proposed route is also ruffling feathers of some groups who say it would destroy the prized countryside of the Chiltern hills in Buckinghamshire.
The Government has said that around a third of the route through the Chilterns will be tunneled in an attempt to mitigate its environmental impact. Building work on the route could begin in 2017 after the formal public consultation has been carried out and the Government hopes the consultation process will help alleviate some of the conflict created by the current proposed route.
"I think it is a revolution and I think it is very exciting," said Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker, in a Friday podcast at The Guardian.
"And after had having 30 years of decline in the railways... I think we're now looking potentially for the biggest rail building program since the Victorian era. And good thing too!"