Scottish Government plans for Glasgow-Edinburgh high-speed rail make great sense

16 November, 2012

Scotland’s Minister for Transport, Keith Brown MSP, is due to meet Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin shortly to discuss how to take forward studies into achieving a three hour journey time for London – Glasgow/Edinburgh.

The Scottish hand is strengthened by the Scottish Government’s commitment to create a first stage high-speed rail (HSR) scheme in Scotland, linking Edinburgh and Glasgow by 2024, as a first step in a truly national network for Great Britain. The Scottish ambition follows hard on the heels of Patrick McLoughlin’s announcement of a study to achieve a three hour journey time between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh.  At ‘an historic opportunity’, Westminster and Holyrood will find they are singing the same tune.

Adverse comment, comparing the Edinburgh – Glasgow scheme with earlier free-standing high-speed proposals between the two cities, are missing the point: the fast connection between the two cities is just an early benefit from creating a whole-Britain HSR network. The proposal should be looked at in that light, as a first stage in a much wider scheme. HSR is about creating capacity, as well fast journey times. So with a fast non-stop journey on a new line, the compromises in the timetable on the Queeen Street route via Falkirk can be ended. In future, it will be possible to concentrate on delivering much better services for the intermediate locations, such as Linlithgow, Falkirk and Croy.

To achieve a three hour journey time to London successfully, additional north-south HSR infrastructure will be needed – in Northern England and Scotland. It will be necessary to create new routes into the centre of Glasgow and Edinburgh and new or expanded station capacity will be needed too.

Greengauge 21 believes that the proposed timing (2024) of the first Scottish HSR scheme makes sense too. The first stage of HS2 is due to open just two years later and this brings the prospect of hourly sub four hour services to London for both Scottish cities. Given that terminus capacity is a constraint, with a new faster route into the city centres it should be possible to make further savings on the cross-border timings. So this makes good sense: capitalising on investment plans south of the border, bringing early connectivity benefits to Scotland.

It does mean that the work in Scotland needs to provide for junctions to the existing network so that the new HSR services from the south can use the new infrastructure – and no doubt, connectivity northwards, and integration with the wider Scottish rail network will also be important considerations.