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250mph rail link back on track

SOUTH Yorkshire is to get a direct high speed rail link to London with 250mph trains - slashing journey times to the capital to just 75 minutes.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond will tell the Conservative Party Conference today that he has ditched the previous Tory blueprint for a line which would have run between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds but bypassed South Yorkshire.

Instead, the coalition has opted for a proposed route between the capital and Leeds with stops in South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and Birmingham.

Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has welcomed the news.

He said: "I'm delighted that we've managed to include Sheffield in the high speed rail route. It is a clear demonstration of this government's commitment to creating jobs and prosperity in the north.

"There are tough times ahead but there will be no return to the 1980s. The Coalition will invest in capital infrastructure like high speed rail and continue to ensure a fair deal for Sheffield."

Speaking to The Star, Mr Hammond said council leaders were currently in talks about where exactly in South Yorkshire a new high speed rail station will be built.

He said: "There will be a station in South Yorkshire.

"The precise location of that is not defined. I gather the local authorities in South Yorkshire are working together to try and identify where would be the optimum location linking in with other transport infrastructure."

The region does, however, face a long wait before the 400m-long trains arrive - construction work is not due to start until 2025 and will be completed by 2031 or 2032.

Mr Hammond added: "This is going to be a step change - it's not just a railway that goes a bit faster.

"It's on a par with change that took place when journeys stopped being at the speed of a horse and started being at the speed of a steam train.

"It will change the way people view the UK."

Mr Hammond will use his conference speech to tear up the Conservative's previous high speed proposal, which would have seen an "reverse S-shaped" route between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

It was derided by business and political leaders in South Yorkshire and the East Midlands who accused the Tories of leaving their regions out in the cold.

Following months of intense lobbying, the Transport Secretary will announce that the Coalition has adopted Labour's alternative proposal for a 32bn "Y-Shaped" network, with a line from London to Birmingham and then two separate arms heading further north, one to Yorkshire and the other to the North West.

Crucially, both northern arms of the Y will be built at the same time, preventing one area from getting the economic edge over the other.

Mr Hammond said although the Y-shaped network is 800m more expensive, its total benefits are 25bn greater.

The Yorkshire arm will rejoin the existing East Coast Mainline between Leeds and York.

Journey times between South Yorkshire and London will be slashed by around 52 minutes from two hours and seven minutes to 75 minutes.

An entirely new high speed rail station will have to be built at whichever location is chosen in South Yorkshire.

Mr Hammond said: "It will have to probably be a new large station site. The trains are going to be 400m long - platforms of more than a quarter of a mile."

The government has yet to set out exactly how the network will be funded.

However, Mr Hammond said taxpayers' money would be used to pay for the track and tunnels, while private cash will pay for the stations and trains.

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