A further upgrade of the London-Glasgow west coast main line at a cost of £1bn could reduce journey times sharply and be self-funding if the government gave the private sector more freedom to innovate, Sir Richard Branson claimed yesterday.

Sir Richard was speaking as he launched a campaign to demand that the next franchise for the route’s long-distance passenger trains should allow for bolder thinking than the highly-prescriptive documents issued recently. A decade-long, £8.9bn upgrade was officially opened only last week.

Sir Richard wants further work to reduce London to Birmingham journey times by more than 22 minutes to less than 60 minutes and the best London-Glasgow journey times by 25 minutes to three hours 45 minutes. He proposes building new lines to link Birmingham International, near the airport, to the main west coast route, and links to Heathrow airport to the high-speed line from London to Paris and Brussels.

Financial Times