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Transport Secretary Philip Hammond yesterday made a statement to the Commons on High Speed Rail. Here are extracts from what he said.

Screen shot 2010-12-20 at 16.35.38 The overall aim of the policy is to deliver green growth across whole of UK: "One of the coalition's main objectives is to build an economy that is more balanced both sectorally and geographically, and that will deliver sustainable economic growth while also delivering on our climate change targets. Investment in infrastructure, and transport infrastructure in particular, will be a key part of that approach. To deliver economic growth and carbon reduction, we must provide attractive alternatives to short-haul aviation while addressing the issue of scarce rail capacity between city centres. Network Rail has calculated that by 2024 the west coast main line will effectively be full, with no further enhancements that could reasonably be made to meet future demand… It is my view that a high-speed rail network will deliver a transformational change to the way Britain works and competes in the 21st century. It will allow the economies of the midlands and the north to benefit much more directly from the economic engine of London, tackling the north-south divide more effectively than half a century of regional policy has done, expanding labour markets and bringing our major conurbations closer together."

Journey times to Birmingham, the north and Scotland will be slashed: "Central Birmingham will be brought within 49 minutes of London-potentially less for non-stopping services-and within one hour five minutes of Leeds. The released capacity on the west coast main line offers the possibility of commuter-frequency fast services to London from places such as Coventry and Milton Keynes. By running trains seamlessly on to existing inter-city routes, the proposed network will also bring Glasgow and Edinburgh within three and a half hours of London, which is fast enough to induce a major shift of passengers from domestic aviation."

50% of the proposed route will be amended to address local and conservation concerns: " I travelled the length of it and talked directly to local authorities, property owners, and many of the protest groups and their Members of Parliament, and I commissioned additional work on the options for improving the proposed alignment. As a consequence, significant amendments have been made to both the vertical and horizontal alignment, and to the proposed mitigation measures. In total, around 50% of the preferred route proposal published in March has been amended in some respect."

Compensation for property owners: "Despite our best efforts at mitigation, however, we will not be able to avoid all impacts on property values. Where a project that is in the national interest imposes significant financial loss on individuals, it is right and proper that they should be compensated fairly for that loss, so I have asked my officials to prepare a range of options for a scheme to assist those whose properties will not be required for the construction of the railway, but who will none the less see a significant diminution of value as a result of the construction of the line."

Read the statement in full.

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