High speed rail to cut journey times
The company, which is responsible for the maintenance of existing track infrastructure, pressed its case for an ambitious £34 billion programme, which would link the capital to major cities in the Midlands, north west England as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Using trains travelling at 200mph, it would cut the journey time from London to Edinburgh from the current four hours 13 minutes to two hours and nine minutes. Liverpool, which is currently two hours and eight minutes away by train, would be reachable in one hour and 23 minutes.
Network Rail has drawn up its proposals, contained in a 1,500 page document, at a time when the Government is working on its own plans for a high speed line to Birmingham and beyond, which are due to be published by the end of the year.
If the Department for Transport were to adopt Network Rail's plans the high speed line to Birmingham would be completed by around 2025. It would cut the journey time from the current one hour and 22 minutes to 46 minutes.
Iain Coucher, Network Rail’s chief executive, said the link would transform Britain's transport infrastructure, delivering deep cuts in long-term carbon emissions in the process.
"It can promote economic growth, regeneration and social inclusion," he said. "It is a low carbon option – cutting domestic flights and taking cars and lorries off the road. It will release capacity on the existing rail network and revolutionise passenger journeys."
Demand for rail travel is growing and Network Rail estimates its main lines from the north to London will be full by 2020.
Coucher emphasised that a decision on building a new route is needed quickly or the extra demand for travel will be met by cars.
Transport secretary Lord Adonis has established a company - High Speed Two (HS2) - and tasked it with drafting plans for a national high-speed rail network.
David Rowlands, Chairman of High Speed Two, said the company will finish a report on the issue later this year.
Responding to the Network Rail report, Rowlands said that it represented "a useful contribution to the much more detailed work that HS2 is doing on route and station options to the West Midlands, including Heathrow, and on corridor options beyond going north to Scotland together with a comprehensive business case covering all the costs and benefits".
John Cridland, CBI deputy director general, welcomed the report and said overcrowding on the rail network would cost the economy in the long run.