1. Exec Summary

1. Exec Summary

There is a growing body of evidence of the potential benefits that could arise from a high speed rail link from Scotland to the rest of the UK. This has come from a variety of sources, covering business groups, environmental groups, as well as Government bodies. In response to this, the Scottish Government has instructed Transport Scotland to develop this Strategic Business Case, which will feed into the detailed appraisal to be undertaken later in the year by High Speed Two on behalf of the UK Government.

The purpose of the Strategic Business Case is firstly to establish the case for change and the need for investment; and secondly to provide a suggested way forward for the scheme.

The Government Economic Strategy (2007) sets out the core Purpose for the Scottish Government:

To focus Government and Public Services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

Edinburgh and Glasgow are key to Scotland’s economy, with their city centres alone contributing 30% of Scottish output; data from the Strategic Transport Projects Review suggests that the city regions could make up more than 70% of Scotland’s economy. Supporting the development of these two cities is a key part of the Government Economic Strategy. Linkages to London and the south are important for these cities, as they facilitate commerce and industry, and in particular the export of financial and business services, which together make up more than 25% of Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK. Good rail links are twice as important to these industries as to other sectors in the Scottish economy.

The principle of high speed rail cross-border links, which is set out as an aspiration in the National Planning Framework for Scotland Two, is clearly compatible with the Scottish Government’s strategic objectives, in particular the following objectives for transport:

  • Making connections across and with Scotland better;
  • Improving reliability and journey time; and
  • Maximizing the opportunities for employment, business, leisure, and tourism.

Edinburgh and Glasgow are not only key contributors to the Scottish economy in their own right, but they are also catalysts of economic growth in the rest of Scotland.

This study has reviewed the potential benefits of a high speed link, and its results will feed into the business case being developed by High Speed Two, which will be presented to the UK Government in the beginning of 2010. The Scottish Government will work closely with High Speed Two over the coming months to ensure that the case for bringing high speed rail to Scotland is fairly represented.

From reviewing the available evidence, it is clear that extension of the high speed line all the way to Scotland represents the best option. Even under conservative assumptions, a high speed line will deliver the most significant economic welfare benefits to Scotland, and only a full line will deliver the step change in journey times which is required to achieve modal shift from air to rail, with the associated environmental benefits. Indeed, current evidence suggests that a high speed rail line will only be able to deliver reductions in UK carbon emissions if it is extended to Scotland.

Failure to bring the high speed line to Scotland will disadvantage the Scottish economy, particularly the tourist industry. A limited development of high speed lines in England will mean that cities in England unfairly benefit compared to those in Scotland, as they attract more visitors, and make Scotland appear the poor relation of the UK.

The high speed line will attract more development to Edinburgh and Glasgow, supporting the Scottish Government’s aim to develop the cities into a single economic mass.

The merits of different alignments will be examined in more detail at the next stage of the business case development process. At this stage, the Scottish Government’s preference is for a line which splits north of the border to provide direct access to both Glasgow and Edinburgh. This will provide the best opportunity for balanced development between the two cities, which, by maximizing the amount of room for development to occur in, will help ensure that the potential of high speed lines is fulfilled in Scotland.

The Strategic Business Case provides a rationale for intervention and enough evidence for a scheme or project to be allowed to proceed to development. At this stage of the project, detailed information on the commercial, financial, and management arrangements for the project has not been developed. These aspects will be advanced by High Speed Two, with involvement from the Scottish and UK Governments as required.