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Councils prepare for fight over high-speed rail link

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The preferred route for a £33bn high-speed rail (HSR) network from London to Birmingham and on to northern England have been unveiled by the government - and affected councils have set up a fighting fund to oppose it.

But the first London-Birmingham phase of the project will have no direct link to Heathrow airport, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced, saying a spur to Heathrow would be part of the second, north-of-Birmingham, phase.

This would mean the spur would not be finished until around the mid-2030s and would open at the same time as the routes to Manchester and Leeds.

Mr Hammond also ruled out a direct link from the London-Birmingham line - known as HS2 - to HS1, which is the London to Folkestone Channel Tunnel high-speed rail link. Instead, there will be a connection to HS1 via a new tunnel from Old Oak Common.

Publishing details of the London to Birmingham route, Mr Hammond said around 50% of the route first proposed by the Labour Government earlier this year had been amended.

This has followed vehement opposition to the line from those living in Tory heartlands.

Buckinghamshire CC is in a group of councils putting together a ‘fighting fund’ to continue actively opposing the proposed HS2 rail scheme. Funds will be used for co-ordinating the efforts of the several protest groups and for any necessary expert advice and legal costs.

Buckinghamshire CC leader David Shakespeare (Con), said: “We have a once-in-a-lifetime battle on our hands with the prospect of HS2 cutting through the heart of our county. We do not have at our disposal the level of expertise to battle alone, and acknowledge that we will need experts to guide and advise.

“This will entail some expense, and the county with our partners are pooling our resources so we can present a stronger, more cohesive and united opposition to this scheme.”

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