Anyone doubting the desire to bring HS2 to Scotland only had to glance at the newspapers or listen to the radio before this week’s high-speed rail summit in Glasgow began.
‘Scotland wants high-speed rail’
‘Scotland pushes for high-speed rail’
High-speed rail must make tracks to Glasgow’
Glasgow high speed rail summit
The Scottish Government has made its intention to bring HS2 north of the Border clear for some time.
We were delighted to be able to visit Glasgow and share our experiences during the conference debate (more in the upcoming post).
London is often the focus for high-speed rail and rail debates in general, but it is important we also address the needs of the regions effectively.
For example, it may not be a surprise that rail passenger levels are increasing between London and Scotland (although we are in the midst of a recession).
Birmingham to Scotland rail growing
But how many people realise passenger numbers are rising between Birmingham and Scotland, with Virgin Trains running 11-carriage trains to meet demand?
Passenger levels have increased by 30 per cent in two years between the West Midlands and Scotland and are projected to soar further.
Of course, London-Birmingham (phase one route) has attracted the attention and scrutiny so far, but we hope this will change to address the full Y-route when phase two (Birmingham to Manchester/Leeds) is announced.
Birmingham journey times to Manchester will be cut from 1h 31m to 41m and Birmingham-Leeds from 2h to 57m.
The aim is for high-speed services to reach Scotland from London in less than three hours.
So it’s easy to see why Scotland wants to get on-board and Scotland’s deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon was passionate in her address. She was keen to point out it is not just about the South East.
“Not all roads and not all railways lead to London,” she said. “We must not prioritise investment in the south east of England.”
Indeed, it was encouraging to hear that the Scottish government has such a keen understanding of the importance of high-speed rail to the regions and was keen to work with the West Midlands, North West and Yorkshire.
Broadband won’t replace travel
The deputy first minister also had words for high-speed rail critics who believe broadband investment offers an alternative.
“Digital connectivity will never replace the need to travel for work or to meet family and friends.”
At the top of the agenda was the Scottish Government’s desire to build a new fast link between Edinburgh and Glasgow aiming to cut journey times from around 45-50 minutes to half an hour.
This is viewed as a first step, possibly to be realised by 2024, and connection to the UK high-speed rail network will follow.
Faster and further
“We need to deliver high-speed rail both faster and further,” she added.
Clearly there is a desire to get on with things north of the Border.
Analysis of Treasury public spending on transport reveals that £644 per head is spent in London compared to £198 for the West Midlands.
Of course London needs and deserves high quality public transport but this highlights the importance of schemes such as HS2 which provide for the regions.
We’re glad Scotland shares our view on this and they have our full support.