4 October 2010

The Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, has pledged Government support to a high-speed rail network in Britain, and announced plans for the route North of Birmingham in a speech at the Conservative Party Conference.

Mr Hammond welcomed the Conservative approach on taking the tough decisions and he spoke of the Party having moved the economy from the danger zone to one that is now approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The point was made that the Chancellor will be allocating capital where it can best boost growth, and it is for this reason that the high-speed rail project has been backed. Mr Hammond announced that the Government’s preferred option for high-speed rail North of Birmingham would be one from Manchester to the West network, and the second from East Midlands to South Yorkshire, before connecting to the East coast network North of Leeds.

On delivering investments, Mr Hammond spoke of having inherited a top-down system from the previous Government with Whitehall deciding what is best for nationwide regions. He pledged to scrap the multiple funding schemes, replacing them with a formula grant, as well as a Local Transport Fund that will allow Local Authorities to bid to support their plans, for their areas. He pledged to improve local accountability, cut costs and said it will mean, at times, Local Authorities making decisions that Whitehall may not agree with, but backed this on the grounds of creating localism.

The Transport Minister stated Britain has one of the most expensive rail networks in the world, with the Independent Regulator finding it to be up to 40% more expensive than competitors. The Minister called for railways to be modernised.

Transport will play its part in cutting costs, and pushing forward the localism agenda, the Minister maintained, as the Coalition Government works to get Britain moving again.

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