MPs back high speed rail linking London, Midlands and North

The House of Commons transport committee said a high speed rail network, beginning with a line between London and the West Midlands, could provide a “step change” in UK rail services. But the committee’s approval came with a number of provisos including MPs urging supporters and opponents of the scheme to resist from name-calling and terms such as “Nimbys” and “Luddites”.The cross-party group of MPs said the route would be a “catalyst for economic benefits” and said there was a “good case” for expansion beyond Birmingham to the North and Scotland.

However, the line connecting London with major cities to the north has run into angry opposition from people living near the route who worry about the impact on their homes and the countryside.The trains, which will be able to carry 1,100 passengers, are likely to travel through picturesque areas including some traditionally Conservative heartlands.The transport committee said a full assessment of the case for building from north to south should be carried out as a priority, and the government must make clear how high-speed rail fits into its aviation strategy.

“The costs and benefits of routing HS2 via Heathrow should be set out more clearly and there should be a clear statement about the status of possible complementary schemes such as those which would link Heathrow by rail to Gatwick or the Great Western Main Line,” the MPs recommended.The committee also said claims about the carbon-reduction benefits of HS2 “do not stand up to scrutiny”.

“However, HS2 will produce less carbon than an expanded motorway network or greater domestic aviation in the event of increased demand for inter-urban travel.”The Commons will debate the transport committee’s report later today.Committee chair Louise Ellman said: “A high-speed line offers potential economic and strategic benefits which a conventional line does not, including a dramatic improvement in connectivity between our major cities, Heathrow and other airports, and the rest of Europe.

“High speed rail may be a catalyst for economic growth, helping to rebalance the economy and bridge the north-south divide. But the government must do more to promote local and regional growth strategies to ensure we get maximum economic benefit from high speed rail.”For Labour, shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said the committee was “absolutely right to back Labour’s call for a fresh look at the case for a direct link to Heathrow.”