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Greens hit back at 'split' claim over High Speed Rail

Author: 
John Freeman
Local Liberal Democrats have chosen the wrong target in their attempt to secure votes in the upcoming General Election, after falsely accusing local Greens of a 'split' on the proposed High Speed Rail Link.

Earlier this week, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood Stuart Langhorn - also leader of the Council - claimed there was division in the ranks of local Greens, after Councillor John Whitelegg criticized the High Speed Rail plans - but his claim of a split has provoked fury from the veteran campaigner for a better network.

Lib Dem Langhorn notes a key part of the Green Party Manifesto argues for a reduction in short haul flights and agrees, saying improving the rail infra-structure for the UK is vital. "In particular, it will help to secure the economic future of this part of the North West and improve our connectivity to the rest of the country," he says.

"It will be good for tourism on which so many local jobs rely. Lib Dems support investment in the railways as it will help to remove cars from the road and planes from our skies.

"Lib Dem plans also extend to an infrastructure bank to make sure the funding gets in place for such projects - both locally and nationally.

"I now question if the local Green Party truly supports improvements to our railways?"

Responding, Coun Whitelegg told virtual-lancaster he has repeatedly pointed out that High Speed Rail does not deliver reductions in domestic aviation or reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

He completely rejects accusations of any 'split' - and points out that the Lib Dems support for a High Speed Rail link panders to the smallest of number of rich rail users.

"This is based on international experience in countries like Germany, where a huge expansion in high speed rail has gone hand in hand with a huge expansion in domestic aviation," he points out.

"If Councillor Langhorn took the trouble to read what I had actually said, he would know that supporting rail services is very high indeed on my list of priorities - and the Greens. In the 1980s I chaired the Settle-Carlisle Joint Action Committee and fought an intensive six-year campaign to prevent the closure of this line and was 100 per cent successful.

"In several articles, I've argued for the application of a strict prioritisation of transport spending. The prioritisation should be (from most important to least important): local transport to create world beating walking, cycling and public transport facilities in cities like Lancaster and between Lancaster and Morecambe and serving rural areas; regional transport - rail links that assist tourism and shifts way from the car within 50 miles of a given centre such as Lancaster; inter-regional link links so that Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Lancaster, Skipton and Leeds (for example) have new rolling stock and much improved services; and long distance rail links not involving high speed rail (such as sleeper services and services such as the German City Night Line)

"We also we need a clear planning system in the UK," he argues, "to make all of our cities splendid examples of economic, cultural and tourist hubs and not rely on a London-centric model.

"High Speed rail services to London come very far down this priority list and the case for spending £32 billion on this one aspect of rail travel has not been well-made by its supporters."

Read the Green Party's policy on Transport

• We couldn't find an immediate link to the LibDems Transport policy on their web site.
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