Tory high-speed rail attack backfires

David Cameron & Boris Johnson clashed over high-speed rail today, with the Mayor insisting more research was needed in to the Tories' plans for a Heathrow link.

Boris Johnson has clashed with David Cameron over the Tory leader’s plans for high-speed rail, which would see 250mph trains travelling from Central London via Heathrow to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, calling for more research to be done. The row follows the unveiling of the government’s plans for a high-speed rail line from Euston to Birmingham, from where the line would fork to Manchester and Leeds.

Johnson told today’s Standard:

We must give the utmost consideration to the exact route and where it will stop … A central London terminal is essential as well as an interchange with Crossrail to the west of London in order to whisk people to and from Heathrow as speedily as possible.”

The Mayor’s transport adviser Kulveer Ranger added:

“He believes thorough research must be carried out before its final location is confirmed. Key to that research should be the location’s ability to support passengers heading to and from Heathrow.”

Johnson’s comments contradict those of shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers, who, in a press release seen by Left Foot Forward, had said:

“Labour have got high speed rail wrong for the economy and wrong for the environment. Their line to Birmingham leaves the North, Scotland and Wales out of the massive social, economic and regeneration benefits of high speed rail. And failing to take high speed rail through Heathrow, would be a big mistake and a major lost opportunity for the environment…

The next Conservative government will begin work immediately to create a high speed rail line connecting London and Heathrow with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, with construction to begin in 2015. This is the first step towards achieving our vision of a national high speed rail network to join up major cities across England, Scotland and Wales.”

The Conservatives had refused the opportunity to co-operate with the government on high-speed rail, turning down an invitation from transport secretary Lord Adonis to view the white paper on high-speed rail, an opportunity Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker accepted, as seen on last night’s Newsnight.

Earlier this week, at the London First and Evening Standard “The future of London Transport” debate on Tuesday, a 100 strong audience of business leaders and Londoners were asked to say which party had the best transport policies before and after the debate. Lord Adonis increased his share from 35 before the debate to 56 after and Baker increased his share from 7 to 11 – but Villiers slumped from 38 to 25, with “others” falling from 20 to 8.

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