Fears fast trains will not run as far as Sheffield

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A ROW has erupted over the Government’s commitment to build a high speed rail link to South Yorkshire after it was revealed ministers will not seek the necessary powers to build the line for at least another four years.

Labour claimed there is now “real doubt” the coalition intends to build a 225mph rail line any further north than Birmingham.

But Transport Secretary Philip Hammond hit back, accusing Labour of playing “silly games” and pledging he remained “absolutely committed” to bringing high speed trains to the north.

Mr Hammond has published a consultation document showing how a high speed rail network would be worth £44bn to the country and slash journey times.

Almost an hour would be knocked off the South Yorkshire to London journey time, taking it down from two hours nine minutes to one hour 15 minutes.

The network would allow 14 extra trains an hour to run between South Yorkshire and London.

The government is due to introduce legislation covering the first leg of the network between London and Birmingham in 2013. It is then due to take two years to pass through the Commons and Lords with the line running by 2026.

But the Government will wait until after the next general election, due in May 2015, before it introduces a second bill covering the two separate lines to Yorkshire and Manchester. Those lines will not open until 2032/33.

Labour’s transport spokeswoman Maria Eagle said the plan “casts real doubt on their long- term commitment to delivering high speed rail in the north”.

But Mr Hammond said: “We would be unable to put the whole network in one bill and still pass it in this Parliament.”

Deputy PM and Hallam MP Nick Clegg said: “The high speed rail consultation restates the Government’s commitment to including South Yorkshire in the new network.”