Published: 28th March 2016
Trains could eventually link London with Edinburgh and Glasgow in a maximum of three hours, politicians have agreed.
The possibility of high-speed rail being extended to serve central Scotland’s cities was raised on 21 March when the UK government in London and the devolved Scottish government in Edinburgh reached apparent agreement.
There is as yet no certainty about when really fast trains could knock at least an hour off the journey time. But it is clear that the concept has not been abandoned, in contrast to claims some months ago that the possibility of high-speed rail for Scotland had been ruled out.
The possibility would involve extension of HS2 beyond the previously planned links from London to Birmingham and Manchester, the so-called Y-network. New trains could eventually run on new tracks for part of the way and on revamped existing routes for the rest of the journey.
The two governments announced that work on evaluating options would begin next year. The political development coincided with the publication of a report by HS2 Ltd into extending the benefits of high-speed rail for the north of England and Scotland.
Robert Goodwill MP, the UK Minister responsible for HS2, 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 about three 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."
Keith Brown MSP, Scotland’s infrastructure Secretary who has overall Ministerial responsibility for transport, said that doing nothing was not an option.
Speaking at a joint event in Edinburgh, Mr Brown added: "I now have a firm commitment that development work will begin during the current control period [ending in 2019] 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 joint reception by the two governments in Edinburgh followed the launch by Virgin Trains East Coast on 18 March of the new “Azuma” Hitachi-built trains that are expected to link Edinburgh and London King’s Cross in around four hours from 2018.
The fastest ever rail journey between the Capitals of England and Scotland came on 26 September 1991. British Rail’s InterCity division ran a non-stop special from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley in exactly three hours and 29 minutes.
That was half-an-hour better than the then best scheduled time. Today’s fastest schedule is four hours, with most trains taking longer.
The HS2 (Phase One) Hybrid Bill passed its third reading in House of Commons on Maundy Thursday and afterwards, in the Department for Transport’s own words, “HS2 took a major step forward as the hybrid Bill for Phase One of the scheme between London and Birmingham successfully passed its third reading in the Commons with MPs voting 399 to 42 in favour of the Bill on March 24th.
The Bill will now pass to the House of Lords for further legislative procedures and once all the parliamentary work has been completed and given Royal Assent, construction will begin in 2017.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: Once again Parliament has backed HS2 and brought this vital new railway one step closer to reality. British contractors are now bidding to build the line, British apprentices are waiting to work on it and British cities are waiting to benefit from it.
We expect HS2 to begin construction next year. As we enter this new phase I make 3 pledges: we will work closely with those communities affected by the HS2 route, we will keep a firm grip on costs and we will drive maximum value for money from this new railway.
The Transport Secretary spoke at the Third Reading starting out by saying: Our railways and roads power our economy. It is almost two centuries since this House gave its backing to a pioneering railway from London to Birmingham. A line which changed our country. And on which many of our great cities still rely today.
The line he referred to was the World’s first long distance railway, the London & Birmingham Railway which ran between Euston and Birmingham Curzon Street stations, exactly as HS2 will!
This piece of legislation will in time, authorise the first stage of HS2 from London to Birmingham and has enabled HS2 Limited to start work to procure up to 7 million trees to be planted alongside the line and help blend it in with the landscape.
Mr McLoughlin also said “The connections to Leeds, York, the north-east and Edinburgh and to the north-west, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow will make HS2 part of our national railway network. Euston will become a world class high speed rail station while at Old Oak Common the land has been transferred to the Development Corporation, paving the way for in excess of 25,000 new homes and 65,000 jobs.
He next HS2 public consultation is likely to be a lively one given the amount of Objectors in the area and is at Denham, Bucks on Saturday 16 April 2016 between 11am to 4pm at:
Denham Village Memorial Hall
Bucks, UB9 5BN