High-speed rail links may be expanded

LONDON (Reuters) - The government is to look at ways of speeding up rail and motorway links between London, Birmingham and Manchester and has underlined its support for airport expansion in southeast England.

The transport department said it had 20 billion pounds still to allocate in the five years from 2014 to 2019.

In a report entitled “Towards a Sustainable Transport System,” it raised the possibility of widening motorways, introducing congestion charging schemes in towns and expanding high-speed rail.

It also invited the private sector to play a bigger role in plans to ease congestion of the clogged transport network -- while keeping a lid on CO2 emissions.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said expansion could be achieved without increasing climate-damaging CO2 emissions.

“This framework document ... dispels the myth that as an economy we face the false choice of being ‘poor and green’ or ‘rich and dirty’,” she said.

But environmentalists criticised the plans to expand airport capacity while relying on the European emissions trading scheme to deal with growth in aviation’s CO2 emissions.

“Without blocking plans for new runways we’ll continue to tinker ineffectively with Britain’s fastest-growing source of emissions,” said Greenpeace director John Sauven.

“Any carbon savings from personal travel plans and tweaking road policy will be wiped out many times over by flights from British airports,” he added.