Britain should build northern high-speed rail link sooner -report

LONDON, March 17 Mon Mar 17, 2014 4:54am EDT

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LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - Britain should start building the northern part of a proposed 43 billion pound ($71.50 billion) high-speed rail network earlier than planned, the project's new chairman said in a report for the government.

David Higgins, who became chairman earlier this year, said on Monday that the northern phase of the project should be completed by 2027, six years earlier than planned, to better share the economic benefits of the project around the country.

The project, High Speed 2 (HS2), has divided opinion in Britain because of its cost and the possible impact on the countryside. Under current plans, the first phase of the scheme between London and Birmingham is due to open in 2026 with the second phase extension to Leeds and Manchester due to start from 2033.

Higgins, who oversaw the building of London's Olympic Park, also said a more ambitious redevelopment of Euston station, the London hub for the new link, should be considered.

Higgins' plans are in line with suggestions made in a report last year by a group of lawmakers drawn from across Britain's three main parties, which called for the northern part of the line to be built sooner than 2033.

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