Page last updated at 12:24 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 13:24 UK

High-speed rail proposal welcomed

Eurostar train
The UK currently has only one high speed railway line

Proposals to create a new £34bn high-speed rail link between Scotland and London have been welcomed by industry leaders and politicians.

Scotland's transport minister, Stewart Stevenson, said he would work closely with his Westminster counterparts to see that the project was funded.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the Network Rail project was vital for Scotland's competitiveness.

The service would dramatically reduce the journey times to London.

Network Rail said its proposals would cut the trip from Glasgow from four hours and 10 minutes to two hours and 16 minutes.

The journey between Edinburgh and London would be reduced from four hours and 23 minutes to two hours and nine minutes.

Mr Stevenson said it was important that any future high-speed link connected with the existing network in Scotland.

He said: "The Scottish Government has an ambitious vision for Scottish transport and we have long advocated the need for high-speed links from Europe and London not to stop at Leeds but to continue north to Scotland.

"I have discussed this at length with UK ministers and there is no doubt that such links would bring significant economic and environmental benefits."

We need to ensure tourists and the delivery of our products and services have the best chance of fast smooth access to our markets
Liz Cameron
Scottish Chambers of Commerce

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, echoed the transport minister's calls for the line to be linked to the central belt rail network.

She added: "Our parliament may be devolved but our businesses are not.

"Business in Scotland does not stop at the north-south divide.

"We need to ensure tourists and the delivery of our products and services have the best chance of fast smooth access to our markets."

Before it can go ahead, the proposed line needs to be approved by ministers, who are conducting their own rail network review.

The new line would become the country's second high-speed rail link after the line that runs from London St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel.

Paul Tetlaw, chair of Transform Scotland, the transport alliance of rail, bus and shipping operators, said HS2 was also important for meeting climate targets and for reducing oil dependency.

'Head start'

He said: "If no action is taken, there will be severe capacity constraints that will occur on our existing rail network in the years ahead.

"Network Rail's plans clearly show that people are ready and willing to switch to rail if the right services are provided to the right places.

"Further modal shift to rail is essential if we are to meet our climate change targets and reduce our dependence on oil. We simply cannot continue with existing levels of car and air travel."

rail plan
Birmingham: 45mins, down from 1h 22mins
Liverpool: 1hr 23mins, down from 2hrs 8mins
Manchester: 1hr 6mins, down from 2hrs 7mins
Edinburgh: 2hrs 9mins, down from 4hrs 23mins
Glasgow: 2hrs 16mins, down from 4hrs 10 mins
Source: Network Rail

Network Rail, the company that runs Britain's rail infrastructure, said the new line would require more than 1,500 miles of rail, sleepers and ballast, as well as 138 bridges over roads and current railway lines.

The firm said that the line would account for 43.7 million journeys per year by 2030, which would result in 3.8 million fewer vehicle journeys and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.

WWF Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: "There are well over 100 short haul flights each weekday between Scottish airports and the London airports.

"High speed rail could also go some way to helping achieve the 42% cut in emissions contained in the Scottish Climate Change Act."

Labour's transport spokesman, Des McNulty, said his party was firmly behind the proposals.

He added: "The Scottish Government needs to start looking at how high-speed rail can be taken forward now.

"The line should be built simultaneously at both ends to give Scotland a head start in securing the link."

Liberal Democrat shadow MP Alistair Carmichael said: "Any plans for high speed rail must benefit the entire UK, including Scotland.

"It is welcome that Network Rail appears to have recognised this."



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SEE ALSO
New high-speed rail plan unveiled
26 Aug 09 |  Business
High-speed rail link considered
15 Jan 09 |  Scotland

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