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22 November: news in brief

Labour would extend HS2 to Scotland

LABOUR has revealed radical plans for the railways in its election manifesto. Franchises could be allowed to expire over time, which would avoid claims for breach of contract from the operators, but at the heart of the plans is a new ‘publicly owned rail company’, which would ‘steer network planning and investments’ and ‘co-ordinate mainline upgrades, resignalling, rolling stock replacement and major projects’. The manifesto does not mention the rolling stock leasing companies as such, and it is not clear what would happen to them. There would be a rolling programme of electrification, and there would also be consultation with communities about the reopening of branch lines. Other investments would focus on ‘Crossrail for the North’, and the HS2 project would not only be kept but the route would be extended to Scotland, bringing the central belt cities within 2h30m of London, which is only slightly longer than the journey time on HS1 between London and Paris. Labour added that it would take ‘full account of the environmental impacts of different route options’. Speaking at Labour’s annual conference in September, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald had said: ‘We will take back the franchises as they come to the end of their terms and we have said that we want to do this within two terms of a Labour government. However, I know that John McDonnell wants to accelerate this process and I hope we can do it in a single term. In fact, the sooner we can do it the better.’

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