HS2: Minister unveils phase two high-speed rail plans

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Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has insisted that plans to extend the HS2 high-speed rail line will bring jobs and prosperity to Britain.

Mr McLoughlin told the Commons there would be full consultation on plans to extend the network, which links London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Critics say the rail link - due to be completed in 20 years' time at a cost of £32bn - is not needed and will harm the countryside.

Labour said it was "100% behind" the project as it responded to the statement on the next phase of HS2, on 28 January 2013.

Phase one's London-Birmingham link has faced considerable opposition.

The preferred route of phase two goes from Birmingham northward along two branches: to Manchester Airport and Manchester; and via Toton near Nottingham, to Sheffield and Leeds.

The Department for Transport said journey times between Birmingham and Manchester would be virtually halved under the plans, while the London and Manchester route would be cut by an hour.

The transport secretary told the Commons the final route is expected to be decided in 2014.

He pledged "generous" compensation to home-owners whose properties will be affected.

But Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, argued that the new route had not been thought through.

MPs also heard that decisions on how to connect Heathrow to HS2 would be made once a government review into aviation reports, expected to be in 2015.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said "continuing to patch and amend" existing lines was "no longer good enough", as it would do nothing to reduce overcrowding and cut journey times.

But she said Labour had wanted the new route to go via London Heathrow airport or at least have a spur off the main route.

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