Former British Airways chief executive Sir Rod Eddington has been accusedby rail campaigners of pushing a pro-aviation agenda in recommending against the construction of a high-speed rail ink between London and UK northern cities.

Eddington heads the UK government's transport advisory council and has been looking at strategic infrastructure projects for over 12 months. His final report is due to be published in November, but UK daily newspaper The Times reportedly received a leaked early draft, in which Eddington said he saw less need for the 300km/h (1262kt) train line linking London and Edinburgh (possibly via Manchester) than for increased regional commuter services.

However, rail lobby groups have slammed Eddington's leaked findings, saying the entire project could be constructed for around £13 billion ($24.5 billion) and free up congested roads and airports on UK domestic routes. The UK's only rails capable of carrying high-speed trains (TGVs) are those found on the 110km Channel Tunnel link between London and the south coast, which will be completed next year at a cost of £5.2 billion.

As former Cathay Pacific managing director and chief executive of Ansett Australia and BA, Eddington's selection was controversial, as his experience is firmly rooted in aviation. A government’s chief transport adviser drawn from another European country with significant experience of high speed rail links was preferred by rail campaigners at the time of his appointment, although Eddington vowed to retain an open mind to all modes of transport.

The Scottish state government is in favour of a 300km/h line between its capital and the UK central government capital, but the UK track infrastructure company RailTrack and the Strategic Rail Authority are understood to be wary of large private-finance initiative long-term projects.

External link:
Read Flight International stablemate Railway Gazette International on the UK's debate over the need for high-speed rail tracks.