Posted 22nd March 2016 | 9 Comments
New Scottish high speed plans unveiled
NEW PLANS for improving rail links between England and Scotland have been unveiled by governments on both sides of the border.
Government high speed line developer HS2 Ltd has set out 'broad options' in a new report which says: "Consideration of options for upgrades to both the East and West Coast Main Lines identified that solving all capacity issues is very challenging. Upgrades within the footprint of the existing network would deliver limited journey time savings, short of the 3-hour journey time aspiration."
Now ministers have agreed that a plan to reduce the journey time between London and the central belt to three hours is essential. Scottish infrastructure secretary Keith Brown said: "Doing nothing is not an option," while UK government HS2 Minister Robert Goodwill said: "Scotland will benefit from HS2 from the day it opens, with shorter journey times to London from the start. Once the full Y-network opens, it will only take around 3 hours 38 minutes to reach London from Glasgow and Edinburgh.
"This report looks at ways we can build on these improvements and I thank HS2 Ltd for this work. Together with the Scottish government, we will be asking Network Rail to identify any options with a strong business case, for consideration for inclusion in future plans."
The two ministers attended a joint ceremony at Edinburgh station to confirm their intentions. Keith Brown explained: "I now have a firm commitment that development work will begin during the current control period towards getting journey times between Scotland and London down to three hours or less.
"High speed rail will bring billions of pounds worth of benefit to Scotland’s economy and an infrastructure project of this magnitude – possibly the biggest Scotland’s ever seen - means jobs, investment, benefits for the economy and benefits for the environment."
The current plans for HS2 -- a high speed line between London and Birmingham which would then continue via two branches to Leeds and Manchester -- are already expected to reduce London-Scotland journey times to little more than three and a half hours, but the HS2 report sets out options to cut this journey time still further, by building more new infrastructure or upgrading existing lines with 220km of new 'bypasses' for the present West Coast route, while a separate high speed route from the northern termini of HS2 would require about 300km of new line.
Such a line could form a junction with a separate Glasgow-Edinburgh high speed line, and provide equal services to Scotland's two largest cities. The cost of the high speed line from England to such a junction is thought to be between £32 billion and £34 billion.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told Westminster MPs: "I recognise the continuing investment that is likely to be necessary if we are to meet projected passenger and freight growth on the West and East Coast main lines. Therefore, in this control period the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland will take forward work with Network Rail to identify any and all options with strong business cases, for consideration for implementation in CP 6 and CP 7, that can improve journey times, capacity, resilience and reliability on routes between England and Scotland. This will include consideration of how these improvements can be future-proofed to allow further progress towards three hour journeys."
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