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Labour slams HS2-Heathrow plan wait

Postponing decisions on how to connect Heathrow to a planned new high speed rail line kicks properly integrated travel into the long grass, Labour said.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said the Opposition backed the development of HS2 and would continue to work with ministers on the plans, which saw draft routes north of Birmingham published.

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

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said decisions on how to connect Heathrow to HS2 would be made once a Government review into aviation reports, expected to be in 2015.

Mr McLoughlin made a statement to MPs outlining the plans for the second phase of HS2, which will see the first trains running from London to Birmingham by 2026.

By 2033, two branches to Manchester and Leeds are due to be fully open.

But Ms Eagle said: "Will you accept the decision today to kick into the long grass how HS2 will connect to Heathrow is a major error?

"As you know, our preference as a result of our policy review is to take the line direct via Heathrow. That was the Conservative Party's position before the last election and I'm sorry they no longer support it.

"However, the Government's compromise of a spur was at least a recognition of a need to provide a direct link to Heathrow from HS2.

"Abandoning that today sets back the potential for HS2 to deliver transfer traffic to our hub airport via high speed rail rather than short-haul flights."

Ms Eagle said it could open up slots at Heathrow to use for emerging markets instead of domestic UK flights.

She added: "Surely, the answer is not to delay decisions on HS2 but to speed them up on aviation?"

Mr McLoughlin pledged the new line would be "completely integrated" and had the backing of cities across Britain.

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