The development of a high-speed rail network across the UK must include Scotland from the outset, according to a report published today by the Scottish Parliament’s Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee.
The report – Potential Benefits of High-speed Rail – looks at existing rail capacity in Scotland and the rest of the UK and assesses proposals to upgrade the rail infrastructure to create a system providing faster journey times and easing network congestion.
The report highlights the likely economic, social and environmental benefits associated with the introduction of a high-speed rail service and calls on the Scottish Government to lobby the UK Government to ensure that Scottish interests are taken into account from the earliest planning stages of any network development.
The Committee also raises a number of other key points including:
that high-speed rail travel is more environmentally friendly compared to aviation and that the introduction of a high-speed rail service would trigger a shift from aviation to rail travel
that further work is required to identify the most suitable routes for high-speed lines and that they should serve both Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres
that it is imperative that any high-speed rail network connects effectively with the existing rail network to ensure that all parts of Scotland benefit from any new high-speed link
that the development of a high-speed line should not divert resources and attention away from investment in improvements to the current rail network.
Committee convener Patrick Harvie MSP said: “There is little doubt that developing a high-speed rail infrastructure across the UK could create real and tangible benefits for the whole of Scotland economically, socially and environmentally.
"Rail already offers a quick, reliable and low-carbon transport option from the central belt to London but further cutting the journey time to the rest of the UK and to Europe would encourage individuals and businesses to realise the benefits of travelling by rail instead of short-haul aviation. If the Scottish and UK Governments are serious about meeting the challenging targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, radical and bold new policy ideas like high-speed rail need to be developed in the field of transport.
"Now that high-speed rail is firmly on the political agenda following the UK Government’s recent announcements, it is imperative that the Scottish Government does all it can to ensure that Scottish interests are fully integrated into any project planning work at a UK level. Scotland must not be left behind in the development of a next-generation rail network.”
The inquiry into high-speed rail focused on five key areas:
- To identify the potential economic and environmental benefits to be gained through the development of a high-speed rail network linking Scotland with major English conurbations, London and Europe
- Options for ensuring that the existing rail network within Scotland can connect effectively with any high-speed network
- The practicalities and costs of constructing a high-speed line and the different options for routes and train types
- The potential for high-speed and improved links to achieve modal shift away from domestic aviation and long-distance driving, as opposed to meeting increased overall demand
- To identify any barriers to the development of improved high-speed rail links.
The committee inquiry also follows the publication, in July 2008, of a report by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee on long-term plans for the UK rail network.