High speed rail battle

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Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has taken the unprecedented step of contacting train drivers to bolster numbers supporting HS2 before the public consultation closes on July 29, in ‘A message from Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP about the HS2 consultation’.

It was published on the employee-only East Midlands Trains intranet and reads: “Developing and delivering a new national high speed rail network is an urgent priority for ensuring the long-term sustainability of our railways, as well as for spreading economic growth and tackling the persistent north-south divide. That is why I am urging all employees who have a very significant stake in seeing HS2 come to fruition to get involved in the consultation... As you are well placed to know, our trains are becoming increasingly crowded. Between 1994 and 2009, the number of miles travelled by passengers in Britain soared from 18 billion to 32 billion and demand is predicted to continue rising.

“If we fail to tackle the problems on major routes, severe overcrowding ...will inevitably spread and reliability will deteriorate. The Government is investing heavily in the network. But we need a more radical and visionary solution if the railway is to compete effectively with road and air travel. That solution is high speed rail.

“It transforms journey times, capacity, reliability and comfort...while delivering huge economic benefits. A national network from London to Leeds and Manchester, with direct connections to Heathrow and HS1, would be capable of carrying 18 trains an hour, each with up to 1,100 seats. And moving many services to a high speed network would free up more capacity on commuter routes.

“How often in the past has Britain baulked at big decisions, while other countries modernise their infrastructure? We have before us a once in a lifetime opportunity. Let’s take it.”

This follows a mailshot from train union ASLEF to members, claiming that the creation of ‘jobs for all’ should not be prevented by a privileged few.

P Withrington, Transport-watch