A SENIOR minister has revealed that the Government could look at a high speed rail link to London for the south.

Rail minister Claire Perry MP told the Daily Echo if a business case could be made for such a service to match high speed railway links being developed in the north then funding for it could be considered.

She was speaking on a visit to Eastleigh yesterday where she defended Government spending on railways in the south.

A Daily Echo investigation has found that passengers in south are paying to subsidise other networks in other parts of the country while the region struggles to cope with rocketing passenger numbers.

And this newspaper revealed how three decades from now, journey times from the north of England to London will be faster than from Southampton to the capital - despite Hampshire's location next door. 

Statistics from the Office of Rail Regulation showed South West Trains passengers were paying more into the rail network than the Government pays back to rail companies in subsidies.

And operator South West Trains has demanded urgent investment from Government.

In response, Ms Perry said some parts of the system required a subsidy and some parts returned a premium and that is how it has always been and the real question was whether passengers felt that they were getting what they paid for.

She said: “We're spending more on the national railway than at any time since Brunel - £38bn over the next five years on tracks, stations and trains.

“We have to think longer term about how people are travelling.”

Locally, she said investment was being made at Waterloo station which would allow it to take longer trains which would have a knock on effect on overcrowded London-bound services to and from Hampshire.

She said there were projects in the south west, such as investment at Hazlemere, which would unblock the whole south network.

But Ms Perry added the Government was keen to let local leaders decide how money should best be spent.

As previously reported, as work continues to make HS2, a high speed rail link from the north to London, a reality, Solent transport leaders have urged more action to reduce journey times on the Hampshire network.

They have called for more “transformational investment” than outlined in Network Rail's proposals for Wessex for the next 30 years.

But Ms Perry said she did not agree with criticisms of Network Rail's future plans, saying they did look at an express service from Eastleigh or Southampton to London bypassing other stations.

However she did say a high speed link could be looked in the south “if there was a business case”.

Ms Perry was touring railway maintenance and repair works run by Arlington Fleet Group, based at the former London and South Western railway works site in Campbell Road, with the town's Tory parliamentary candidate Mims Davies.

Earlier in the day she was at Southampton port to celebrate the arrival of the first pre-series Class 800 train for the Intercity Express Programme.

This is a £5.7bn Government project to replace the fleets on the East Coast and Great Western Main Lines with new high-speed trains.