Transport secretary changes route between London and Birmingham to dampen objectors

The government has published a range of modifications to the proposed route for the new London-Birmingham High Speed Rail line, in a bid to sidestep local opposition to the plans.

Transport secretary Philip Hammond has made modifications to the route in 67 of its 127 miles, and increased environmental mitigation measures such as making deeper cuttings and more tunnels, partly to avoid the wrath of Tory backbenchers who’s constituencies lie on the route.

Hammond yesterday confirmed that the line from London to Birmingham will be built between 2015-2026, with further lines to Leeds, Manchester and a branch to Heathrow airport finished in the 2030s.

Philip Hammond said high speed rail had the potential to transform the way Britain works and competes in the 21st century. He said: “I also know there will be less welcome impacts of this new line in some parts of the countryside. Since taking this job I have reviewed all the possible route options in detail as well as travelling the length of the proposed line to talk directly to local people. As a result, I have made a number of changes to the route published by the previous Government.

“We are continuing to look at additional mitigation measures to lessen the impact of the line on those communities which it passes nearest to, as well as considering innovative options for providing assistance to those who may be affected by the proposed line. I hope the communities affected will play a full part in the consultation process.”

The publication of the plans was welcomed by business leaders and engineers. Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Director General, Tom Foulkes, said high speed rail carried huge economic and environmental potential. He said: “The consultation on the preferred route is a welcome step towards progressing this ambitious project, however actually delivering it still demands the very strongest commitment going forwards, both politically and financially.”

The CBI said it would support the proposal if it ensured freight services were not disrupted, that private contributions to construction were in place before construction started, and that it didn’t spell cuts in spending on other transport infrastructure.