Posted 20th April 2015 | 20 Comments

SNP could change route priorities for HS2

THE Scottish National Party has launched its manifesto today, but it is also warning that if it gains the balance of power in a coalition with Labour, it could insist on changes to the HS2 project so that construction starts from Scotland rather than between London and Birmingham.

The latest polls in Scotland suggest that the SNP is likely to gain Labour seats north of the border, and that a Lab-SNP coalition at Westminster is a possibility after the election if the Conservatives lose ground.

Labour would then rely on the support of the SNP to govern the United Kingdom, but it is unlikely to be a free ride.

Speaking to Sky News, SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie said: "If the polls are right and our substantial lead is translated into votes in a hung parliament position, if there was a minority Labour administration which needed our help in order to get their legislation through, we might well make a case for saying look, let's not have HS2 go to Manchester and Birmingham, let’s have it start in Edinburgh, Glasgow, coming through Newcastle as well, so we have a joined up high-speed rail network across the whole of the island, to the benefit of everybody, not just those travelling from Birmingham to the South."

The SNP is also supporting public sector bids in future competitions for passenger rail franchises.

The only parties to have ruled out HS2 entirely, at least in its present form, are the Green Party and UKIP. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all support the project, although Labour has warned that there will be no 'blank cheques'. Plaid Cymru has called for additional Welsh transport funding of £4 billion as a 'dividend' to compensate for expenditure on a high speed line in England.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Lewis Downie, Renfrew

    The SNP are no friends of the Railways. Look at the Glasgow airport rail link - cancelled. Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Project - cut back, to the detriment of what's left to go ahead.

    Both these projects will go ahead, but at additional cost, once the SNP are out of Government in Scotland. Very short sighted decisions to appease their voters out with the central belt.

  • jimmy austin, thame

    Sign on the dotted line and put the contracts out to tender London-Birmingham then Manchester, then Scotland via upgraded WCML. It makes the most economic sense. The point to bare in mind is in the 80's during the construction of the Channel Tunnel it was billed as a part of a High Speed Rail age in the UK that would link the major cities with Europe without having to change trains*. HS2 is a small step in this plan not the end goal. The only thing I'm against is the fact it will be run by a private franchise. If were going to pump in 80bn+ of tax payers money into this scheme all the profit coming out of it should go back to the public.

    (*There was indeed such a proposal, but the idea was for 'Regional Eurostar' services to use the existing network, not a new High Speed line or lines. The 'North of London' Eurostar sets were built but never used for their intended purpose of providing through trains from provincial centres to the continent.--Editor)

  • Alasdair Young, Helensburgh

    Scottish MPs at Westminster have equal rights to vote on treasury matters, however HS2 is a cover up for past Government errors in particular Harold McMillan's closure of the GCR main line. If that main line was restored to Rugby where it could join the Trent Valley main line and the Midland Main line was restored to Manchester via Derby Matlock and Buxton congestion would be considerably reduced.
    HS2 is useless unless it terminates at St Pancras International

    (Don't think Harold Macmillan [later Earl Stockton] was much to do with the closure of the GC, which happened in stages mainly between 1966 and 1969. Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister in that period.--Editor)

  • Claydon William, Norwich, Norfolk

    @ Melvyn Windebank.

    We are all aware of HS2 plans and the fact that other trains from origins like Ed/Glas will run on conventional existing routes and then HS2.

    The main header article quite clearly says that the SNP might put pressure on HS2 plans so that construction starts in Scotland. I'm not aware of any firm current plans to continue HS construction north of Leeds/Manch'r

    If the existing plans to Leeds/Manch'r have a price tag of 50bn, what will the new price be to construct to Scotland ? 80bn ?

  • Matt, Bristol

    Stewart Hosie's comments must either be ill-informed or mischief-making. If he's commenting on such things he ought to know that much of the role of HS2 south of Rugby is to relieve the WCML, and also that Sir Richard Leese in Manchester is very much a (Labour) supporter of HS2 and will make life very difficult for anyone who tries to delay HS2 to Manchester.

    As is mentioned above, the new line will be built to continental norms of loading gauge, OHLE, signalling (ETMS rather than French TVM used on HS1 though AFAIK) etc. I wouldn't expect to see HS-only rolling stock for a number of years, but rather 395-style dual system stock which will enable use of 'Classic' lines to Liverpool, Newcastle, Scotland and perhaps something like a loop through Sheffield etc.

    In terms of the Scots, I don't see any reason why they can't be allowed to build their own HS line between Glasgow, Edinburgh and Berwick, provided that it's done with their own money (or borrowed on their account). And I for one shall be delighted to sit back and watch them try to explain that to the Scottish electorate

  • John Harper, Edinburgh

    Geography alone does seem to suggest that the HS2 to Scotland link be via Newcastle (lot less hills and a lot more people) however the real revenue will come from the southern end (also this is the really congested part) so building out from London is a no brainer. For Scotland the key is onwards from Edinburgh where rather than build a high speed route between Glasgow and Edinburgh (very expensive lots of homes to knock down tunnels etc) a more modest rebuild of the Carstairs route could offer a 40 minute service, while a new line between Perth and Inverkeithing could put the Fair City with 30 minutes of Edinburgh, Dundee say around 50 minutes, and Aberdeen under 1 hour 55 minutes, even Inverness would be around 2hours 25 minutes. Thus a 2 hour 40 minute Euston to Edinburgh could open up most of Scotland.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    The term H(High) S(Speed) simply emphasises the speed but it fails to explain how the line will be built to a larger gauge allowing for bigger trains than can be operated on our historic network .

    In addition the term High Speed is already used for trains that operate at 125 mph so in a sense HS2 could be referred to as VHS2 Very High Speed 2 !

    HS1 got round this problem by being referred. to as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link although it had its opponents .

    Continental Gauge is simply. another way the railway could have been described as but the term High Speed was coined and has stuck .!

    (I don't think anyone has suggested that HS2 is a term which in itself implies a larger loading gauge. There is no such thing as a single 'continental gauge', and the range of possible gauges is specified by the UIC, hence UIC GB+. HS2 has its origins, as a term, in HS1, which was proposed as a replacement for the original title Channel Tunnel Rail Link by Richard Brown in 2006. The domestic HSTs were indeed 'high speed' in the later 1970s, when the first sets went into service. We don't think quite so much of 200km/h (125mph) these days.--Editor.)

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    To those who think stage 1 of HS2 is simply London to Birmingham the reality is it also includes a section which will link into the WCML north of Birmingham allowing classic compatible trains to use HS2 then run onto WCML .

    HS2 is a mis- nomer as its really Continental Gauge 2 allowing larger trains even duplex TGV type trains !

    One other plan is with the new inter city trains being introduced on ECML plans to upgrade the route to allow full 140 mph operation once signalling has being upgraded could reduce journey times sooner than HS2 on ECML !

    (Why is HS2 a misnomer? It stands for High Speed 2. I understand the HS2 loading gauge is to be UIC GB+ [which would allow double deck trains]. I am not aware of a 'Continental Gauge 2'.--Editor.)

  • J Hutton, Oxford

    My question to the rail engineers is: how do we get the time for a train from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow down from the current times of over 4 hours so that it is under 3 hours? For Scotland, perhaps they need to have a programme of wider electrification and speed up central belt to Aberdeen times.

  • Claydon William, Norwich, Norfolk

    Since when was HS2 going any further north than Leeds and Manchester ?

    HS4 maybe ?

  • Mark Hardinge, Worcester

    It does seem strange that with a project costing tens of billions of pounds that so many take no account of the monetary return! Many have pointed out that the first planned stage of HS2 will produce little if any profit. As it stands, HS2 is an evil scheme. But few have considered a different route from London to Birmingham? Extending the high speed line from Stratford up the Lee valley out of London then on to Luton and Birmingham would be much cheaper and profitable, linking it to HS1 and the continent. Also the obvious route for a high speed line in the UK is up the east coast to Scotland. Many comments on the existing east coast line confirm that it is sorely needed, being so congested. I am sure that these routes would be much more profitable and of great benefit to our country. If these alternative routes were published, I am sure that many would see the benefits. It would be a credit to our country instead of the present scheme which is a disgrace.

  • Michael, London

    It makes economic sense to have HS-X (insert number, as we actually need at least 12 high speed routes to bring any two urban centres in the entire UK within TWO hours of each other) start in Scotland.
    The London-Birmingham section is not going to even break ground for another decade! Starting IN Scotland and mid-England: the northern section could be completed by the time the London-B'ham section is completed and thus the two would simply be joined. Giving us 500 miles of HSRail by 2027, not just 100 miles.
    We, the inventors of rail transport, should hold our heads in shame because in the time we spend dithering over it, the Chinese will have built Yet Another 10,000km of HSRail!
    With our without the SNP, the HSX should be built from both ends and the middle as well and all the Not in My Little Englander's (NIMLE's) can finally realise England dictating political and economic policy to the other 3 nations of the UK has had it's day. The UK is a federal Nation-State, just as the EU is a federal Nation-State.

  • David Cook, Broadstone, Dorset

    The facts on HS2 are simple, we need extra capacity between London and the Manchester area. To build from Scotland downwards is sheer financial folly, you must open the busiest section first rather than last, and get revenue flowing as soon as possible. In any case, there is little point in starting HS2 in Scotland when they will probably go independent the day after the Scottish bit is complete.....

  • david c smith, milton keynes

    I agree basically with Craig. Whilst no SNP supporter, it does seemto make more sense to aim HS2 at London - Newcastle - Edinburgh - Glasgow, long enough to give useful time savings so as to allow new day-return opportunities ( and give "spin-off "benefit for Teesside and Yorkshire.).

    Mancherter and Birmingham are too close to London for any time-savings to be of much impact.. The East Coest HS2 could still bring capacity relief in general for London - North ,, and might consist of stretches totalling about 200 miles of new-build cut-off 200mph sections, together with the remaining 200 miles of existing line upgraded for 140 mph., giving an estimated 2hrs 45 min London - Edinburgh time.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    HS2 has gained cross party support from all 3 major parties with only a small rump of MPs in the Anti camp .

    In addition all the work to date including legislation is in respect of the London to Birmingham section of route which will still provide faster journeys to Scotland via classic compatible trains.

    The reality their is not enough demand between Scotland and the North of England to justify building that section first and it would not solve the congestion which is at the southern end of the WCML .

  • Jim Campbell, Birmingham

    Glyn Williams has it right. The majority of journeys are from London to one of the towns and cities of the UK. By building the southern section first all those on the final route get some benefit from the start. Plus the stock for the London Birmingham section can be built to the larger loading gauge.
    To Craig Stanley I think you will find the long term intention is for Newcastle and then Scotland to be served by extending the Leeds arm.

  • Glyn Gowans, Witham

    Whatever the merits of HS2, the SNP should remember that the UK's population exceeds 64.5 million. Over 53 million live in England; 5.3 million live in Scotland. To maximise the return on HS2's staggering cost, it might seem prudent to commence construction in England. In any event, even the Rugby-Euston HS2 line, we are told, would improve Anglo-Scottish services.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    I doubt if the SNP are going to have any power to change anything. If the Bookies are to be believed (and this seems to be confirmed by the Opinion Polls) then Labour will have most seats but unable to have a clear Majority. Then I would expect them to do a deal with the Tories, so that the Labour Budgets - which will involve severe cuts to Public Expenditure - will not be opposed by the Tories who will abstain on all Economic decisions. Where that leaves HS2 is anyone's guess.

  • James , London

    So it's vote Labour and get dictated to by the SNP on matters in England which are devolved in Scotland. Its all a bit asymmetric.

  • craig, stanley

    Just so long as they take the more sensible north east England route rather than going through Cumbria I'm fine.