Today’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
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.