Transport Minister Keith Brown has issued a call to arms to newly-elected council leaders in the north of England, and Boris Johnson the London Mayor, to join the campaign to bring high speed rail to Scotland.
Among the first items to land on the desks of new local authority chiefs over the Border was an invitation from the Minister to a summit on the benefits of a UK-wide HSR network, which could cut as much as two hours off of journeys between Glasgow and London.
Mr Brown will head a delegation of politicians determined to ensure immediate inclusion in the high speed service currently only in the planning from London to Birmingham.
And he hopes to see newly elected London Mayor Boris Johnson join the delegates to make the case for a fully inclusive HSR.
A meeting of the representatives from across the political spectrum is now being arranged to take place at a venue in Scotland later this year.
Mr Brown said:
“There is no better way for these new council leaders to prove they are progressive and working for the future of their local areas than to show their support for a high speed rail line which would benefit the whole of the UK.
“The Scottish Government looks forward to a future where Scotland stands on its own two feet as a nation, fully connected with its neighbouring communities. High speed rail will play a huge part in that and sits squarely with this Government’s two defining policy objectives: to increase the rate of Scotland’s economic growth, and to develop a low carbon economy which leads the world in its ambition.
“I have issued this invitation to show that Scotland is more than capable of taking the lead on innovation and partnership working and because most local authorities north of London have already voiced their support for our proposals.
“I would hope that Mr Johnson will also see how London can only realise the full potential of high speed rail when it connects all the way to Scotland.
“We already know that nearly two thirds of businesses believe high speed rail would attract new investment here and that the line would benefit Scotland to the tune of £24.8 billion.
“But high speed rail to Scotland is high speed rail for all of the UK.
“There are currently only plans for high speed rail from London to Birmingham. Proposed extensions to Manchester to Leeds are years away. We call for high speed rail in the UK to be delivered further and faster; all areas of the UK must share its benefit.
“All local authorities which back the UK-wide line must surely see how that would positively impact on all areas along the way.”
In his letter, issued to 54 local authorities, Mr Brown wrote:
“We know that not all of our economic and social development is dependent on improved connectivity to London, as important as those links are. And we know that our economic growth relies on improved transport links between our regions.
“It is my belief that the plans currently offered by the Department for Transport must be revised, and that high speed rail must reach further across the UK and be delivered faster than the current proposed timescales.”
Westminster Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced in January that a new high-speed rail line will be built only from London-Birmingham in the first phase and onward only to Manchester and Leeds in the second phase.
Following a meeting with Mr Brown and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex Neil in March, Ms Greening agreed to a joint approach to developing a timeline for HSR to Scotland.
Further talks will be held in the autumn to decide how the scheme should move forward.
The Fast Track Scotland report was published last year and detailed the benefits of high speed rail for business, communities and the environment. The study was compiled by the Scottish Partnership Group for High Speed Rail, formed by Minister for Housing and Transport Keith Brown.
The report found that the line would benefit Scotland to the tune of around £24.8 billion and that 72.5 per cent of Scottish businesses believe high speed rail will attract new investment.
The Scottish Partnership Group consists of:
- CBI Scotland
- City of Edinburgh Council
- Convention of Scottish Local Authorities
- Glasgow City Council
- Glasgow Edinburgh Collaboration Initiative
- Nestran (North East Scotland Transport Partnership)
- Network Rail
- Scottish Chambers of Commerce
- Scottish Council for Development and Industry
- Scottish Enterprise
- Scottish Futures Trust
- Scottish Trades Union Congress
- SESTran (South East Scotland Transport Partnership)
- SPT (Strathclyde Partnership for Transport)
- Transform Scotland
- Transport Scotland