The Government launched a "fightback" today over controversial plans for the HS2 rail link promising a £15 billion boost to the economy.
The Prime Minister and Transport Secretary have launched what they refer to as a "fightback" over the HS2 high-speed rail project.
The true cost of the fiasco over the West Coast Main Line franchise is only just beginning to become clear.
Network Rail is to roll out "high speed mobile broadband" across the country's busiest lines, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced.
The plans will be industry funded, and if successful will make it feasible for passengers to watch streamed videos on their mobiles.
70% of passengers should have access to the faster internet by 2019, according to the Department for Transport.
The move was announced at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.
Rail passengers could see an end to single-journey fares costing almost as much as return tickets under plans announced by the Government today.
Currently the Government regulates the price of off-peak return fares, meaning train operating companies are able to price other tickets - including off-peak singles - more freely.
But rail minister Norman Baker has announced plans for a pilot scheme that could see all long-distance rail tickets sold on a single-leg basis and allow passengers to "mix and match" each ticket type when planning a return journey.
It means single tickets would cost roughly half the return fare - a shake-up on the current pricing structure in which there is sometimes little difference between the cost of the two ticket types.
The Transport Secretary has defended the controversial HS2 high-speed rail project which has come under criticism from campaigners, Labour, and the public accounts committee.
Patrick McLoughlin said: "Any big major infrastructure project like this will led to criticism, of course it will. you're not going to build 350 miles of new railway and not have criticism.
"There is a sceptism with government ministers promising a glorious future which is some way a way down the line, unless we make these type of decisions now we don't get it."
Transport Secretary Patrick McGloughlin today said HS2 will "deliver growth and jobs across the country".
At a speech at the Institute of Civil Engineers he responded to backlash earlier this week that the train will take business away from the regions.
A spokesman for HS2 Action Alliance said that the Government's "need for a political legacy" has overcome the need for an improvement of existing rail services. Richard Houghton said:
Much has been made of the potential disruptions of upgrades to the WCML but of course the major upgrades have been done and the required developments to release capacity would be tiny in comparison.
Indeed the disruption in converting a First Class carriage to a standard one, or from train lengthening is nothing compared to rebuilding Euston and having several platforms out of use for eight years that HS2 requires.
But this pragmatic unsexy approach doesn't fit with the need for a political legacy that is so clear in the Government's increasingly strident defence of this white elephant.
The Department for Transport has been tweeting extracts from Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin's speech about the HS2 high-speed rail project:
Patrick McLoughlin: people questioned the M25. Or thought we didn’t need the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf. These doubters were wrong. #HS2
PMcL: high-speed rail is not some untested fantasy but a reality in many of the world’s leading and fastest growing economies. #HS2
PMcL: the main reason we need #HS2 is as a heart bypass for the clogged arteries of our transport system.
– Spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies
A new, modern high speed rail network linking the north and south of Britain can provide significant economic and environmental benefits right across the country. HS2 will bring additional capacity and options for new rail services that incremental changes alone simply cannot.
The former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, whose Chesham and Amersham constituency would be affected by the HS2 rail link, has criticised the Government for needing to launch a "fightback" on the issue:
#HS2 a project supposed to be this good should not require a "fight back" after 4 years of planning & KPMG paid to produce good report
Para 4.1.3 "the impacts are clearly uncertain ...." In KPMG report on #HS2 sort of says it all....