MEP pleas for rail links to Europe

Rachael Tinniswood

Regional MEP Chris Davies has called for a 225mph high-speed rail link to be built to connect Blackpool with the Channel Tunnel, saying such a service is necessary if the North West is to avoid becoming a transport backwater.

Davies has asked the Government to make an immediate announcement that Britain will follow the rest of Europe in building new high-speed lines – at the moment the UK has just 68 miles of high-speed track as opposed to France's 1,000 miles.

The MEP wants the North West to be served by a dedicated high-speed line linking the major cities and towns with London and the Channel Tunnel.

He said: "Given the cost savings to be made by sharing much of the infrastructure with Yorkshire and the North East the obvious access route would be a line passing under the Peak District Park by way of Woodhead Tunnel."

But Woodhead Tunnel, a crucial link to the North West which lies between Manchester and Sheffield, will soon be blocked if National Grid continues with plans to relay one of the main East-West electricity cables through the tunnel, which means trains will no longer be able to run through it.

In a letter to Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, the MEP writes: "While the rest of Europe powers ahead with the construction of high speed lines fit for 225 mph trains we are to expect nothing more from this Government than a transport policy best described as one of make do and mend.'"

"I ask you to take a lead in championing the case for construction of a dedicated high-speed line to our region.

"Given the time that the planning process will consume, if its construction is to be completed before 2020 the Government cannot afford to wait another day before announcing a firm declaration of intent."

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