Study to help HS2 benefit Scotland
A study to try to increase the benefits Scotland gets from the £50 billion HS2 high-speed rail project has been announced by the Government.
Compiled by the scheme's promoters HS2 Ltd, the study could result in London-Scotland train journey times coming down to three hours or less.
The study could also lead to further benefits to more towns and cities in northern England.
Phase one of the controversial project will see a high-speed line cutting through Tory heartlands in the Chilterns from London to Birmingham with a completion date of 2026.
Then a Y-shaped extension taking in north east and north west England is due to be finished by 2032/33, with the whole scheme costing £42.6 billion plus £7.5 billion for the 225mph, 1,100-passenger trains.
Phase one will see journey times between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh reduced from four hours 48 minutes to four hours, while these times will fall further to three hours 38 minutes when the phase two is up and running.
Announcing the study today, Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said that f ollowing discussions with Transport Scotland, the UK Government had instructed HS2 Ltd to identify ways to make further rail capacity and journey time improvements between northern England and Scotland for both passengers and freight.
This will include looking to cut journeys from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London to three hours or less.
Lady Kramer said: "Our goal for HS2 is for a truly national network that will bring the UK and its cities closer together. We are driving forward HS2 because the benefits it will bring are huge.
"Without it we face a crisis in capacity on our rail network. But it is also about connectivity, across the UK 18 cities including Glasgow and Edinburgh will be better connected because of HS2."
She went on: "Scotland will already benefit from day one with reduced journey times to and from London and once the full network is open these times will be reduced by up to an hour. However, we want to see if more can be done and so we are commissioning this study.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: "Today's announcement is good news for Scotland. The goal of delivering a genuinely national network with high-speed services shows this Government is serious about promoting economic growth right across the UK.
"The completion of the HS2 Y-network will help boost the Scottish economy by an estimated £3 billion. Employment opportunities in the planning and construction of HS2 could also benefit Scotland's strong engineering base.
"Tourism on both sides of the border will also be supported as the UK is opened up to faster travel. Today's announcement looks at the options for what might be done to improve journey times to and from Scotland still further."
Scotland Office, Network Rail and Transport Scotland will generate a list of options. Improvements could include extending high speed lines, making upgrades to existing lines, or a combination of the two.
HS2's final report will be submitted to the Department for Transport next year for ministers to consider.