UK: The government launched a public consultation process for construction of the proposed London – West Midlands high speed line on February 28.
The consultation, which runs until July 29, will take the form of a series of public meetings and events along the planned 190 km route that is proposed to run from London to a new terminus in Birmingham and a junction with the existing West Coast Main Line near Tamworth. In addition, the consultation process will consider the government’s wider aim of a national high speed network, the next phase of which envisages plans for a ‘Y’-shaped route taking HS2 north from Tamworth to Manchester and Leeds.
Announcing the plans in Birmingham, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said ‘high speed rail offers us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we travel. Countries across Europe and Asia are already pressing ahead with ambitious plans for high speed rail, and we cannot afford to be left behind.’ He added that completion of the ‘Y line’ from London to Manchester and Leeds would cost around £32bn in total, and would accrue £44bn in benefits over 60 years.
Infrastructure manager Network Rail welcomed the start of consultation, stressing that HS2 would relieve the existing WCML, which incoming Chief Executive David Higgins described as 'Britain’s busiest and most economically vital rail artery.
‘It will be completely full by 2024 with no more space to accommodate the continued predicted growth in both passenger and freight traffic’, he said.