“Saying it will get there is not enough – we want to set a date.”
Alex Neil MSP made the case for north of the Border perfectly clear: The Scots want HS2 and they don’t want to have to wait.
In an entertaining speech, with a few nods to historical rivalries, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment pushed for a firm commitment and date for reaching Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Mr Neil brought along copies of Fast Track Scotland. The introduction read:
‘The argument for a high speed rail network in the UK is strong, but is stronger when Scotland is included.’
Addressing the Making HS2 Happen conference in London (January 26) Mr Neil said the main findings of the report, which was produced for Ministers by the Scottish Partnership Group for high speed rail, were:
- That work in Scotland could start sooner rather than later, and ahead of planned completion in England
- Those works presented an opportunity for early delivery of a Edinburgh to Glasgow High Speed Rail connection
- Talks with HS2 Ltd to start work on detailed route planning for high speed lines to and within Scotland to be made a priority
- HS2 Ltd urged to consider a direct Edinburgh-Glasgow route as part of a scheme to link to the South
“Scotland invests heavily in its rail network and has a strong record in developing new lines,” he said.
“We are absolutely convinced of the benefits of high speed rail. We are looking to bring forward planning for new high speed lines with the aim of linking them to the network proposed for England.”
He said the latest advice from the SPG suggested that construction in Scotland could begin in the shorter term.
“We would not be bound by the timings of the legislative processes of the UK Parliament, or by the constraints of proposed phasing of construction in England.”
“Let there be no doubt. Scotland is ready to take its share of the hard work and stand together in its support for high speed rail. Leading business organisations, trade unions, local authorities and social groups are continuing to make a credible and persuasive case for Scotland’s early inclusion in a UK high speed rail network.
Mr Neil was also keen to make the environmental case for HS2 in Scotland.
“I believe strongly that there will also be benefits to our environment. This presents a real opportunity and if we don’t have high speed rail Scotland will undoubtedly be disadvantaged.
“High Speed Rail sits squarely with our two defining policy targets – to increase the rate of sustainable economic growth and develop a world-leading low carbon economy,” he added.
He said Fast Track Scotland had calculated that high speed rail would generate economic benefits of £24 billion to Scotland, but only full high speed connections would achieve the most significant carbon benefits.
Mr Neil reiterated concerns about capacity constraints between Scotland and England on the West Coast Main Line.
“We simply cannot afford to allow this to strangle future services to Scotland.”