HighspeedrailToday’s Guardian reports that Robert Cochrane, the government advisor to the Department of Transport, has questioned the likely take-up for the Conservatives’ proposed 180mph railway links.

"Tory plans to replace a third runway at Heathrow airport with a high-speed rail line were dealt a blow yesterday after a government adviser said passenger demand for 180mph train journeys might be too low.

"Robert Cochrane, an adviser to the Department for Transport on long-distance travel, said Britain could not assume the success of high-speed rail networks in Europe would be replicated here. Britain had a different distribution of population and economic centres from that of countries such as France and Germany, he said.

"’I am not against high-speed rail but we have to face challenges when we do the analysis.’"

Cochrane further criticised the proposals on other grounds:

Cochrane also questioned whether a high-speed link
between Birmingham and London was necessary: "We don’t need to go that
fast." He added that public money should not be invested in the line
because high-speed rail would not benefit the least well-off. "I think
subsidies should go to individuals who need them."

Cochrane’s claims are disputed by the Shadow Transport team:

"Stephen Hammond, the shadow transport minister, said
the Conservatives had taken ‘excellent advice’ on high-speed rail and
were confident that a new line would be a success. ‘We are absolutely
certain that it will work. We are certain that it will bring major
environmental benefits and that it will take 66,000 flights out of the
short-haul network.’"

The Conservative Party is backing high-speed rail as an alternative
to the expansion of Heathrow to ensure a third runway. Recently,
ConservativeHome’s Platform hosted Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villers and Conservative MP David Wilshire debating for and against this proposal.

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