Queen's Speech: High-speed rail

Notes on: "My Government will.…enable the construction of a high-speed railway network.''

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Demand for travel between major British conurbations is expected to increase significantly over the next twenty to thirty years. High speed rail appears best placed to provide significant and sustainable additional capacity to meet that demand, whilst also improving journey times.

The Government’s vision is for a truly national high speed rail network as part of it programme of measures for creating a low carbon economy, although it recognises that this would need to be achieved in phases. Such a network would include links to Heathrow and potentially other airports to provide an alternative to short-haul aviation.

HS2 Ltd (the company set up by Government to investigate the case for High Speed Rail) has calculated that a high speed line to Birmingham could reduce journey time from London by around half an hour. Connections to existing main lines would enable high speed services to run on to other destinations, including Manchester and Glasgow. We will also actively study the options for a link between the new high speed line and the existing High Speed One line - which links London to the Channel Tunnel.

A wider network could offer still more significant journey time savings - for instance reducing the journey time to Manchester to around 80 minutes.

A new high speed line could potentially treble maximum capacity on the crowded London-Birmingham rail corridor. HS2 Ltd have estimated the cost of a London-Birmingham line as around £17 billion, though the bulk of this expenditure would not be incurred until construction begins, and calculate that such a line could provide high value for money with more than £2 of benefits for every £1 spent.

The construction of a high speed rail line will require the introduction of a hybrid High Speed Rail Bill in due course.

Published 25 May 2010