A 225mph high speed rail link must be built to connect Blackpool with the Channel Tunnel if the North West is to avoid becoming a transport backwater, says one of the region's MEPs.

Chris Davies is calling for the Government to make an immediate announcement that Britain will follow the rest of Europe in building new high-speed lines.

France has more than 1,000 miles of high-speed track in place with a further 500 miles in the pipeline.

By contrast the UK has just 68 miles, from London to the Channel Tunnel.

The Liberal Democrat has accused Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly of pursuing a "make do and mend" policy that lets down the region.

The MEP claims the North West of England deserves to be served by a dedicated high speed line linking the major cities and towns with London and the Channel Tunnel.

He said: "Given the cost savings to be made by sharing much of the infrastructure with Yorkshire and the North East the obvious access route would be a line passing under the Peak District Park by way of Woodhead Tunnel."

But the MEP says that Woodhead Tunnel, a crucial link to the North West, is to be blocked by works being carried out by National Grid.

The Woodhead line between Manchester and Sheffield was closed in 1981 but is in a good state of repair and could be quickly reopened. But National Grid are in the process of relaying one of the main East-West electricity cables through the tunnel ruling out future rail use without the considerable expense of moving cables.

In a letter to Ruth Kelly the MEP claims Britain, and the North West in particular, is in European terms being left as a transport backwater.

He writes: "While the rest of Europe powers ahead with the construction of high speed lines fit for 225 mph trains we are to expect nothing more from this Government than a transport policy best described as one of make do and mend.'"

"I ask you to take a lead in championing the case for construction of a dedicated high-speed line to our region.

"Given the time that the planning process will consume, if its construction is to be completed before 2020 the Government cannot afford to wait another day before announcing a firm declaration of intent."