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Anglo-Scottish high-speed rail study needs to be inclusive

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The Scottish Government announced today plans for a new high-speed rail line. And next month, Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin is expected to announce plans for the second phase of the Y-shaped HS2 network, extending north to Leeds and Manchester.

This leaves a ‘northern gap’ of 120-150 miles between Manchester/Leeds and the Scottish border, says Greengauge 21. It has just researched the views of authorities and business groups in the North of England – those places through which HSR would be built: the areas that would benefit from bridging the northern gap.

“Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin has announced a welcome study into getting the London – Glasgow/Edinburgh journey time down to 3 hours. Our research shows that this study needs to be inclusive, and involve local authorities, business and environmental groups and rail users, as well as the Scottish Government”, said Jim Steer, Director Greengauge 21.

“The study will need to consider line of route upgrades as well as new build”, he added. “And unlike the first phase of HS2, mixed use of new lines by regional passenger and long distance and freight trains should be considered too. While some intermediate HSR stations at places like Carlisle and Newcastle will be needed, northern authorities want to see a comprehensive approach, in which best use of existing railway lines forms part of the planning context for new line construction”.

Jim Steer, Director of Greengauge 21, who will be presenting the research findings tomorrow to the HSR Summit being held in Glasgow, summarised the position:

“It is clear that authorities and business groups want to be actively involved in the planning of high-speed rail to ensure that the northern English regional economies benefit. This marks a shift – and a positive one – in the approach that needs to be taken in closing the ‘northern gap’.

“It is not just Scottish authorities who consider it vital to extent HS2 north of Manchester and Leeds: 89% of our survey respondents in the north of England also thought it important. Good rail connectivity is essential for the economies of the north of England.”