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Scotland Makes High Speed Rail Case

Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex NeilScottish ministers have made their case for a high speed rail line to be linked to Scotland. In doing so, they highlighted the Scottish Partnership Group’s (SPG) advice, which recommends that construction in Scotland may start before the line is completed in England.

Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex Neil addressed the “Making HS2 Happen” conference in London last week. He provided more details on a timetable to bring forward planning for new high speed links north of the border. They are ready to start preparatory work, he said, quoting advice provided by the SPG, which looks at potential station and route options.

The SPG’s report says that there’s an opportunity for elements of high speed rail to be built early in Scotland. Construction of at least some lines doesn’t have to wait for the England portion to be completed. The authors say it’s not clear if a route connecting Scotland would start from Leeds or Manchester, so it considered several options.

Three routes were suggested – one west of the hill range to Glasgow and Edinburgh; one east of Pennines to Edinburgh from Newcastle; and another called a trans-Southern Upland route from Newcastle. The group agreed on criteria that includes trains having to serve the city centres of Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as allowing connections to the rest of the rail network. It gave consideration to quick lines west and east of the Pennines, with the possibility of a new, short link between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Other routes were also examined but not taken forward.

Neil says Scotland is a heavy rail investor and has a sturdy record for developing new lines. They have dedicated £1 billion to improvements for the Edinburgh-Glasgow route and are electrifying the core rail network between the two cities as well, which will reduce journey times and increase the amount of trains. They have improved the Highland Line too, adding three extra services that will lead to quicker trips. They are totally convinced of the benefits from high speed rail and are looking to bring forward planning for new lines with the aim of linking them to the already proposed network in England.

The secretary went on to say that the latest SPG advice suggests construction in Scotland may start in the shorter term. They wouldn’t be bound by the timetable of the legislation processes of the UK Parliament or the limitations of the assumptions and criteria directing development in England. It’s because of this that they want to fully engage with HS2 and agree terms for joint work, with the UK government’s full backing. Transport Secretary Justine Greening is due to visit Scotland soon, and planning for high speed rail is due to be a leading topic. They look forward to making fast progress on this important issue for the nation’s economy.

 

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