A TRAIN taking just one hour and 13 minutes to get from Preston to London would give East Lancashire a massive boost, according to business and council leaders.
But they warned that transport connections within Lancashire must be improved for the area to enjoy the full benefits.
Network Rail today announced its preferred route for a London to Scotland high-speed rail line costing £34billion.
Bosses chose the westerly route from London, via Birm-ingham, Manchester, Warrington, Liverpool and Preston to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Planning and building will take at least 10 years and the scheme also needs to be approved by the Government.
If it became a reality, Network Rail estimates that it would take just one hour and 13 minutes to get from Preston to London on the 200mph super trains.
Coun Peter Britcliffe, Hyndburn Council leader, said this would provide a massive boost for East Lancashire.
Coun Britcliffe said: “The investment in the railway infra-structure will be an excellent way of improving business links for people from the Lancashire area and it would bring massive economic benefits.
"It will also encourage people from the south to visit us up here and I really do hope that it becomes a reality.”
Mike Damms, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said the new line would help to break down the perceptions of the North/South divide and greatly improve business links.
He said: “It is an excellent idea and we are very much in favour of doing anything which will help improve business in Lancashire.
“Currently motorway congestion is very costly for business-es in terms of employee time, therefore anything which makes the travelling process quicker would be very welcome.
“Businesses will have increased opportunities to reach out to more customers.”
However, he stated that transport links in Lancashire would have to be improved in order for people to take advantage of the scheme.
He said: “Preston will become a hub for travel links, so it is important that connections to this hub from the rest of Lancashire are made easier.”
Under the proposals, there would be eight new stations with 400 metre-long platforms, more than 1,500 miles of track, 34 miles of tunnels, and 32 bridges installed.
Iain Coucher, Network Rail chief executive, said: “High-speed rail can transform Britain.
“It can promote economic growth, regeneration and social inclusion.”