Published: 19th November 2013
It is almost an inflammatory statement to the anti-HS2 brigade but the Government had asked HS2 Limited to look at extending HS2 to Scotland.
Their remit is to assess how to increase the benefits that HS2 brings to Scotland was announced by Transport Minister Baroness Kramer. The work may also identify further benefits to more towns and cities in northern England.
High speed trains will reach Scotland via locations in the north of England on the way starting in 2026 when the first section is opened between London and the West Midlands. These trains will merge near Tamworth with the West Coast Main Line in what is called by the Government “a seamless transition of HS2 trains onto the West Coast Main Line”.
Once the second phase is operational serving Manchester and Leeds journey times between England and Scotland will be reduced by up to an hour on through services.
Following the latest round of discussions between Transport Scotland and the UK government, the latter has instructed HS2 Ltd to find ways to make further rail capacity and journey time improvements between northern England and Scotland for both passengers and freight services.
The aim is to bring London within three hours of Glasgow and Edinburgh compared to today’s best times of around four hours on a few selected trains.
UK government Transport Minister Baroness 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.
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 from HS2 Ltd with the support of the Scottish government to consider how these benefits could be extended further.
The 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.
High speed rail has the potential to bring huge economic benefits to Scotland, but also adds Scotland’s economic weight to the overall case for high speed rail across the UK.
So we are willing to work in partnership with the UK government to examine options for bringing high speed rail to Scotland, creating benefit for all and complementing the Glasgow to Edinburgh high speed line which the Scottish government is already planning.
I look forward to reviewing the report of the investigation with UK ministers and together decide on the next steps.
Network Rail and Transport Scotland will generate a list of options and improvements could include extending high speed lines, making upgrades to existing lines, or a combination of both. The report will be presented in 2014 to the Department for Transport for ministers to consider.
It is envisaged that there will be an hourly train service between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh from 2026 which will take 4 hours, to be reduced when the second phase opens to 3 hours 38 minutes. The fastest service today between London and Glasgow is 4 hours 8 minutes but one special non-stop run was made southbound in just under four hours on September 22 2006.
This was sponsored by The Railway Magazine and operated by Virgin and Network Rail raising tens of thousands of pounds for charity.
HS2’s latest report says it is to play a key role in job creation, regeneration and development in the East Midlands with the station at Toton which will be connected with a fast and frequent rail shuttle service to Derby, Nottingham and Leicester with a 51 minute journey time to London.
Stations in Leeds, Sheffield, East Midlands and Birmingham will each be less than 20 minutes apart which will benefit all rail users. Scotland will also become more accessible if the route is extended north beyond Leeds and Wigan as currently planned.
In June 1997, a Eurostar train went from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow which was to prove that the gauging work had been completed by Railtrack. Services were going to operate from a year later but the rise of budget airlines combined with the trains being limited to 110mph meant that the Regional High Speed project was abandoned.
The trains had to be pathed amongst local and freight services which meant that journey times were uncompetitive but opponents today still ignore these latter facts.
With HS2, there is no reason high speed trains should not connect the regions with Europe, as planned 20 years ago!