Rail plan puts London two hours away

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A NEW high speed rail link could cut journey times between Blackpool and London by half.

Figures revealed by the Department for Transport today show average journey times between the resort and Heathrow could be slashed from 240 minutes to 119 minutes if the £32bn investment went ahead.

The Government believes the Y-shaped network with links to Manchester and Leeds could also be a massive boost to other North West towns.

If it goes ahead, the high speed line, known as HS2, will be compatible with the existing rail network, enabling high speed trains to continue to other destinations including Blackpool at conventional speeds.

Although the ambitious plan would not become a reality for around another 20 years, consultation closes at midnight on Friday and people are being urged to make their views known.

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard, who is a member of the Transport Select Committee which is examining the proposals, said it was vital the country got it right when it came to delivering improved rail links.

He said: “Clearly there is a major transport challenge in that the West Coast main line is running out of capacity.

“What our committee is looking at is whether what the Government is proposing is the best answer to that capacity problem.

“There are lots of options and alternatives and we need to make sure we have got local connections and it is no use getting a faster link to Manchester from London if the journey onto Blackpool is not faster than it is now.

“The proposed high speed link will probably be a benefit to the north of England but we need to make sure it is the right set of proposals and that local government does the economic development work needed so we can take advantage of the economic opportunities this would bring.”

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond believes the benefits would spread.

He said: “By linking to the existing rail network, we create the opportunity for high speed trains to reach many of our great northern towns and cities, not just those along the line of HS2.

“This will offer significant journey time savings and increased connectivity.”