Council group proposes high speed north-south rail route

Twenty-one local authorities surrounding Heathrow Airport have teamed up to launch a blueprint to show how a new UK high speed rail network linking London with Edinburgh could reduce the need for domestic and short haul flights.

The High Speed North proposal, published this week by the 2M Group, envisages a new fast link following the M1 from London and serving Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Spurs would reach out to Manchester and Liverpool and Birmingham.

According to the group, the route differs from recent high speed rail plans put forward by Network Rail and Greengauge 21 because it links more UK cities and also provides wide-ranging connections to Heathrow by transforming the existing Heathrow Express system into a regional network focused on the airport. 2M says the current airport expansion transport plans offer only a "hotchpotch of disparate terminating branch lines operating on different power systems" – for example the proposed Airtrack link to Staines will use third rail power and trains will not continue on to the overhead-electrified Heathrow Express.

The full north-south line would be built in phases with the first section running from London to Leicester with a branch to Birmingham; it would connect to both West Coast and Midland Main Lines. The second phase would extend from Leicester along the M1/M18 corridor and connect to the East Coast Main Line in Yorkshire. The third phase could extend from Sheffield to Leeds and follow the disused Woodhead corridor to Manchester. This would require the former rail tunnel here to be re-opened for high speed track. Final stages would extend to Liverpool along the M62 corridor and shadow the East Coast Main Line and M8 corridors to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

High Speed North would include an interchange at Cricklewood to provide connections between the new line following the M1 and Heathrow Airport. An integrated 'super' terminal connecting Euston, St Pancras and King's Cross is envisaged. The new route would also provide direct connections from other parts of the UK to a growing network of European cities including Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Lyon.

The full network would cost £30bn and could be completed by 2030. The 2M Group is an all-party alliance of local authorities concerned at the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion on their communities. The group, which took its name from the two million residents of the original 12 members, now represents 21 authorities with a combined population of 4.5 million people.

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