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Scotland ‘won’t wait’ for high-speed rail

The Scottish Government has announced plans to reduce the journey time between Edinburgh and Glasgow to 30 minutes, through the introduction of high-speed rail.

The scheme aims to deliver 140mph services by 2024, nine years before any high-speed link from England can be expected north of the border.

The HS2 link between London and Birmingham is expected by 2026, with ‘phase 2’, turning it into a Y-shaped network linking into Leeds and Manchester too, is expected by 2033. It has long been assumed the network would eventually reach Scotland, but there are no firm commitments or dates yet.

But Scotland’s deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would “not wait” for Westminster to deliver HS2 north of the border and would be “firing ahead” with its own plans.

She said: “We now know that within just 12 years, we could build a line which will see journey times between our two major cities cut to less than half an hour. That will benefit our businesses, our jobs market and also our tourism industry, and it will put us up there with the world's greatest transport networks.

“The Scottish Government will now enter into talks with our partners in both cities and the rail industry to see how we can work together to see this vision realised – a Glasgow – Edinburgh high speed line which can connect to the network from England.”

Details are scant – there is not yet a proposed route, or any information on whether the high-speed services would call at intermediate stations. Sturgeon did say “build a line”, however, suggesting new rather than upgraded infrastructure.

Network Rail route managing director for Scotland, David Simpson, is quoted as saying: "We continue to work as part of Fast Track Scotland in developing plans for high-speed rail in Scotland and the exciting opportunities it would bring.”

Greengauge 21 has called for the Government to address the 120-150 mile “northern gap” that will be left between Leeds and the Scottish border as things stand.

Director Jim Steer said: “It is clear that authorities and business groups want to be actively involved in the planning of high-speed rail to ensure that the northern English regional economies benefit. This marks a shift – and a positive one – in the approach that needs to be taken in closing the northern gap.

“It is not just Scottish authorities who consider it vital to extent HS2 north of Manchester and Leeds: 89% of our survey respondents in the north of England also thought it important. Good rail connectivity is essential for the economies of the north of England.”

He added: “Patrick McLoughlin has announced a welcome study into getting the London – Glasgow/Edinburgh journey time down to three hours. Our research shows that this study needs to be inclusive, and involve local authorities, business and environmental groups and rail users, as well as the Scottish Government.

“The study will need to consider line of route upgrades as well as new build. And unlike the first phase of HS2, mixed use of new lines by regional passenger and long distance and freight trains should be considered too. While some intermediate HSR stations at places like Carlisle and Newcastle will be needed, northern authorities want to see a comprehensive approach, in which best use of existing railway lines forms part of the planning context for new line construction”.

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