Fast Track Scotland - Making the Case for High Speed Rail Connections with Scotland

Executive Summary

  • Scotland stands united in support of high speed rail. It is vital that a high speed rail network be established across the UK to secure its future competitiveness and economic prosperity.
  • The investment case for high speed rail is strong, but is stronger when Scotland is included.
  • Scotland supports a high speed rail strategy which brings Edinburgh and Glasgow closer to London and the UK's great cities, and which preserves and enhances aviation links with London's airports for the north of Scotland.
  • A new high speed line must be built to Scotland to realise the fullest economic and environmental benefits for the UK.

This report sets out Scotland's case for high speed rail. It has been prepared by the Scottish Partnership Group for High Speed Rail, formed by Keith Brown MSP, Scotland's Minister for Housing and Transport, in June 2011. The group has been established to develop and promote Scotland's case for inclusion in a UK-wide, strategic high speed rail network, and comprises partners from across Scotland's Business, Civic and Transport Communities. It speaks with one voice in its support for Scotland's inclusion in a full British high speed rail network.

The Scottish Partnership Group brings together the following organisations:

  • CBI Scotland
  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • Glasgow City Council
  • Glasgow Edinburgh Collaboration Initiative
  • Nestrans
  • Network Rail
  • Scottish Chambers of Commerce
  • Scottish Council for Development and Industry
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Scottish Futures Trust
  • Scottish Trades Union Congress
  • SESTran
  • Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
  • Transform Scotland
  • Transport Scotland

The group's principal conclusion is that the investment case for high speed rail is strong, but is stronger when Scotland is included.

This report demonstrates the clear benefits which Scotland's inclusion in a full UK high speed rail network could bring for the whole of Scotland. It also demonstrates the benefits to the rest of the UK when Glasgow and Edinburgh are directly connected to the network, and that Scotland's inclusion improves the overall business case for high speed rail in the UK.

A high speed rail link to Scotland provides significant economic and environmental benefits to Scotland and the rest of the UK. It will:

  • Increase rail capacity to comfortably accommodate future demand
  • Significantly reduce journey times between Scotland and the UK's major cities
  • Encourage modal shift from air and road to rail
  • Support and benefit businesses throughout Scotland and, in particular, enable Glasgow and Edinburgh to remain competitive in attracting inward investment.

However, it is not only the scale of the benefits but the timing of when they are delivered that is important. It is essential that Scotland is included in the construction programme north of Birmingham.

Therefore, it is the position of the Scottish Partnership Group that planning for high speed rail in the UK does not go far enough; planning must continue beyond Manchester and Leeds. The remit of HS2 Ltd[1] must be extended to include detailed planning for high speed rail to Scotland.

This report recognises that demand for long-distance rail travel continues to grow, and that without additional capacity the UK rail network will be severely constrained. With appropriate integration with the existing network, high speed rail will deliver better rail connections for all of the country.

A high speed line to Scotland is required. Only a new line will deliver the benefits that Scotland needs, and deliver journeys fast enough to ensure that rail replaces aviation's dominance of the Scotland-London travel market. Although there are carbon impacts in the construction of any new line, the inclusion of Scotland in the UK's high speed rail network is essential for realising significant reductions in UK carbon emissions and is vitally important in achieving major levels of modal shift from air to high speed rail.

Only rail journeys significantly below 3 hours will achieve this objective. It is unclear that the proposed operation of 'hybrid' or 'classic-compatible' trains running to Scotland on existing lines will deliver journey time improvements for Anglo-Scottish services.

Similarly, it is vital that a new line releases additional rail capacity for both freight and regional passenger services. Routes to Scotland are significantly constrained; running 'hybrid' trains will not improve that position.

Inclusion in a UK high speed rail network will allow Scotland greater economic equity with other areas of the UK. If Scotland is not included Glasgow and Edinburgh will be comparatively further away, in terms of journey times, from London than their main competitors who are served by high speed lines.

It is imperative that high speed rail is developed in the UK. It is also imperative that Scotland is included if the UK is to see the full benefits of its contribution to the economy.