The Scottish Government will this week lead a UK-wide summit calling on Westminster to up its game on high speed rail.
Politicians from throughout Scotland and the north of England will join business leaders from London, rail industry experts and representatives from across Scottish civic life to make the case for extending the HS2 line beyond the current plans.
Transport Minister Keith Brown will then meet with Westminster Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to share the concerns that the current proposals don’t go far enough.
Westminster has so far revealed plans to take the line only as far north as Manchester and Leeds. And even those cities will not see the line until 2033. Extending the line to Scotland could cut two hours off the journey between London and Glasgow and benefit Scotland to the tune of £24.8billion.
The two-day conference, being held in Glasgow over today (Monday) and tomorrow, will see Scottish Ministers act as a voice for many of the cities which have been left out of the HS2 planning. It will be hosted in the city’s famous Grand Central railway hotel by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Mr Brown. Other speakers will include Network Rail Scotland boss David Simpson, James Alexander from the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), David Hodges from the London Chamber of Commerce and celebrity rail buff Pete Waterman.
Representatives from Manchester, Liverpool, Yorkshire, Sunderland and all of the north east councils will also be in attendance.
Mr Brown said:
“This event will see many English local authorities join with us here in Scotland to show their support for a high speed rail line which would benefit the whole of the UK.
“The Scottish Government looks forward to a future where Scotland stands on its own two feet as a nation, fully connected with its neighbouring communities. High speed rail will play a huge part in that and sits squarely with this Government’s two defining policy objectives: to increase the rate of Scotland’s economic growth, and to develop a low carbon economy which leads the world in its ambition.
“Scotland is more than capable of taking the lead on innovation and partnership working and local authorities north of London have already voiced their support for our proposals. This will offer an opportunity to see how we can work together to have all our voices heard.
“We already know that nearly two thirds of businesses believe high speed rail would attract new investment here and that the line would benefit Scotland to the tune of £24.8billion. But high speed rail to Scotland is high speed rail for all of the UK. There are currently only plans for high speed rail from London to Birmingham and then extensions to Manchester to Leeds, which are 20 years away. We call for high speed rail in the UK to be delivered further and faster. All areas of the UK must share its benefit.
“All local authorities which back the UK-wide line must surely see how that would positively impact on all areas along the way.”
Former Westminster Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced in January that a new high-speed rail line will be built only from London-Birmingham in the first phase and onward only to Manchester and Leeds in the second phase.
Following a meeting with Mr Brown and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex Neil in March, Ms Greening agreed to a joint approach to developing a timeline for HSR to Scotland.
Her successor Patrick McLoughlin will now meet with Mr Brown in the coming weeks to discuss the way forward.