In a report out this week, Greengauge 21 said the planning white paper omits major rail projects "apparently on the basis that none are foreseen likely to arouse the infrastructure planning commission's interest".
The report continues: "We believe that this oversight has been recognised and can be rectified. If the new system is to work at all, it must cover high-speed rail."
High-speed rail is not just about solving the problem of a congested network but meeting wider challenges facing the UK, the group argued. The Department for Transport (DfT) should be engaged in planning matters that are traditionally delegated to agencies and regional or local government, it added.
The group has identified five routes that may be served by high-speed rail to share its benefits across the country. Trains could run from London to Manchester via Birmingham, the North East via Cambridge, Bristol and Cardiff and Scotland.
A trans-Pennine link between Leeds and Manchester would also be necessary as these cities grow, it said. The DfT announced its interest in high-speed lines to link London with Manchester and Birmingham in its carbon reduction strategy (Planning, 2 November, p6).
The Next Steps for High-Speed Rail in Britain is available from PlanningResource.co.uk/doc