Call for faster action on high speed rail
Following the absence of a bill paving the way for high-speed rail in this year's Queen's speech, the SNP has called for speedier action from the UK Government - and a firm commitment for a line that reaches Scotland from the beginning.
The SNP’s Westminster Business and Enterprise spokesperson Mike Weir MP has written to Transport Secretary Justine Greening urging the coalition government to include Scotland in plans for the network from the earliest stage, and asking for a clear timetable for its extension to Scotland.
There are still no scheduled plans from the UK Government for the line to extend beyond Leeds, with phase one from London to Birmingham expected to be complete by 2026, and the second phase to Leeds by 2033.
Mr Weir said:
“It is disappointing, to say the least, that we have to wait another year for the bill before the high speed rail bill will be published.
If the coalition are serious about building a high speed rail network to connect population centres across the UK, then they must stop dragging their heels and get on with it.
“I hope the lack of a bill is not an indication of weakening support for this important economic development from within the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.
“This infrastructure is crucial for our long term transport future in Scotland, but existing UK government plans don’t go far enough. There is currently no scheduled commitment to extend the line beyond Leeds – keeping Scotland in the slow lane for another twenty years.
"Connecting Scottish cities is central, not peripheral, to the business case for high speed rail. It will stimulate jobs and help create growth, and play a crucial role in cutting carbon emissions.
“I welcome that the UK Government have agreed to let High Speed 2 talk to Scottish Ministers, but without a real commitment from the UK in legislation there are real questions about their commitment.
“Studies estimate high speed rail would benefit the Scottish economy to the tune of £20 billion. It would also significantly reduce short haul flights, getting people out of planes and onto trains.
“Unlike the Birmingham line, there is a united voice in support of the line from green campaigners, the government and the business community in Scotland.
“We are already way behind other European nations in our connectivity.
The Spanish Government have set an excellent example – investing long term in links between all major cities. By contrast, the coalition’s plans will take the line only one third of the way up the British mainland by 2033.
“The half-hearted commitment from the UK Government to high speed rail shows it doesn’t have Scotland’s best interests at heart.
“Only with the full economic levers of an independent nation can we ensure Scotland has transport connections fit for the twenty-first century.”