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24.04.14

Scottish high speed rail link has ‘huge’ benefits –Salmond

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has revealed plans to accelerate the development of a high speed rail (HSR) link from Scotland to England.

Speaking last night in Carlisle, Salmond confirmed that a feasibility study is to be established and will explore plans for the potential rail line. However, the SNP leader stated that a route could not be determined until the study has taken place.

“But it is a statement of intent,” he said, adding that the “Scottish government would refuse to wait 30 years for HSR to be delivered by Westminster and instead will commission a feasibility study on work on HSR beginning from the north heading south”.

Salmond criticised the UK’s current plans for high speed rail saying it lacks high ambition for Scotland and for the north of England.

He added: “The plans also lack speed – they may not reach Manchester and Leeds, let alone Carlisle, until 2032. Indeed even Sir David Higgins, who is in charge of delivering the project, has expressed concern about that current timescale.”

Therefore, the first minister has suggested that the Scottish government could push forward its responsibility to make improvements to the West Coast line and improve the transport connectivity between Carlisle and the south west of Scotland, creating a ‘a conurbation of connectivity’.

“That way, a prosperous Carlisle and Cumbria will benefit south west Scotland, just as a prosperous Scotland will benefit the north of England,” said Salmond. “These rail projects could have the potential to bring huge benefits for all of us. But they require an initiative and impetus which is more likely to come from a Scottish government whose main population centres are within 100 miles of here, than from a Westminster government based 300 miles away.”

During the speech, the first minister told a gathering of business people that a railway line from London to Manchester and Leeds would bring £3bn benefit to Scotland – but a full HSR connection would bring £24bn and lead a major shift from air to rail.

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