By a Newsnet reporter
The Scottish Government has announced it is to press ahead with plans for a sub-30 minute rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh by 2024 – at least a full decade before the UK government might bring the High Speed 2 rail project to Scotland.
The project will see Scotland with 140mph trains connecting the country’s two largest cities even before the completion of the London-Birmingham HS2 line. No route plan or detailed costings have yet been prepared.
The London-Birmingham line is due to open in 2026, and was given the green light by Westminster at the start of this year. The second phase of the scheme is due to come into operation by 2033, and will extend the line to Manchester and Leeds.
The London-Birmingham line is deemed a “UK national project” by Westminster, and a proportion of the costs will be footed by Scottish taxpayers. It remains unclear when, if at all, the UK government will fund the construction of a high speed line connecting Scotland with the rest of the UK.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish government will “not wait” for Westminster to deliver HS2 north of the border and would be “firing ahead” with a plan for a Scottish high speed network.
Ms Sturgeon said that Transport Scotland had been asked to investigate the feasibility of a Scottish high speed line, and had reported that the line could be operational within 12 years.
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.”
Scottish transport minister Keith Brown is due to meet with Westminster transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin this week to raise concerns that the current proposals for UK high speed rail do not go far enough and have failed to specify a timetable for Scotland. Extending the line to Scotland could cut two hours off the journey between London and Glasgow and according to one study, would benefit Scotland to the tune of £24.8bn.
Gordon MacDonald, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands and member of the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Investment Committee, said:
“This is fantastic news for commuters travelling between Edinburgh and Glasgow and fantastic news for Scotland as a whole, bringing Scotland’s transport connections into the twenty-first century.
“The Tory-led UK government wants to keep Scotland in the slow lane but this announcement from the SNP Government means we will have high speed rail even before the completion of the London-Birmingham HS2 line.
“Almost halving the journey time between Scotland’s two major cities will also benefit businesses, our jobs market and tourism.
“We are not waiting for Westminster to bring High Speed Rail to us but are still calling for the UK government to recognise the undeniable economic case to connect Scotland to the rest of the UK and the Continent.
“The UK is already well behind the curve when it comes to High-Speed Rail but the SNP refuses to allow the lacklustre plans of the Westminster government to see Scotland fall further behind the rest of the world.
“This is an exciting time for Scotland’s transport network and I’m looking forward to seeing our vision become a reality over the next 12 years.”