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Blueprint for high-speed rail link to Scotland drawn up

 

Blueprint for high-speed rail link to Scotland drawn up

 

THE first ever blueprint for Scottish high-speed rail services is being drawn up, it has emerged.

 

Brown says the link to Scotland "will happen" and has the potential to be up and running before the London-Birmingham link.

Two years ago, Network Rail estimated that journey times from London to Glasgow could be more than halved to little more than two hours with a new high-speed link.

Less than two weeks ago, phase one of the £33 billion high-speed rail network connecting London and Birmingham was given the go-ahead by the Government and should be running by 2026.

UK Transport Secretary Justine Greening – who has called the line "the most significant transport infrastructure project since the building of the motorways" – said a second phase would reach Manchester and Leeds by about 2033. A consultation on the second phase will be launched in 2014.

The first phase will shave half an hour off journeys between London and both Glasgow and Edinburgh, which currently take about four hours and 30 minutes. The second phase will save a further half-hour.

The Scottish Government said at the time that it was "disappointed" that Greening's announcement did not include a commitment to bring high-speed rail to Scotland, and Brown said that they would continue to push for a verbal commitment from the Coalition Government.

However, Brown said that since then Westminster has sanctioned HS2 to examine how high-speed rail could be brought north. But he was still critical of how Westminister has handled the issue.

He said: "The company involved in developing the routes so far is now going to be talking about coming to Scotland and that's good news.

"What we would like to have happened, when Ms Greening made her announcement, was [a statement] that we are going to have a high-speed link to Scotland. She could have said they would have discussions with the Scottish Government as to how we deliver and fund it. They could have said we are looking in the future to come to Scotland, but didn't.

"They [Westminster] have been talking about a high-speed rail network for Britain, but this is not for Britain, it's not even for the whole of England."

The developments came after discussions between Brown and Westminster Transport Minister, Mike Penning.

Brown said: "What I said to Penning was that the high-speed rail company that has been established has now to start engaging with the Scottish Government, not after 2026. And he agreed.

"The exact route of [the line in Scotland] is something that has to be worked on and that early engagement is the one welcome part of the announcement."

The Scottish Government hopes to further drive home its case for the benefits of a UK-wide high speed train service at the High Speed Rail Conference in London this Thursday, to be attended by Greening.

Brown believes that the environmental case for high-speed rail is heightened if it extends to Scotland, as it would reduce the number of people who would fly between Scotland and England.

He added: "England will benefit as well by having this connection. First of all it alleviates congestion at Heathrow and the south-eastern airports. It helps the environment there and here, it helps business, here and in England."

Brown believes Scotland's end of the project could be partly funded through money heading north via the Barnett formula, because of the high-speed network commitment south of the Border. "Barnett consequentials" are calculated to ensure that a particular change in public expenditure in one geographical area leads to a change in public expenditure in others that are proportionate to population.

He said: "It is a big investment, I don't deny that, but other countries have done it and benefited from it and I think we can do likewise. Scotland wants it."

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