City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Council Leaders Push For High Speed Rail to Scotland

By edg - Posted on 04 November 2010

High Speed Rail proposal

Edinburgh and Glasgow councils today launched a campaign to have the UK High Speed Rail project extended to Scotland.

Under current plans being looked at by the UK government, the HSR line runs straight from London to the outskirts of Birmingham and then splits into two HSR lines going to Leeds and Manchester, where they would link with the current mainline rail network.

Although "High speed" is considered 200 mph (320kph), the London and Birmingham line would be one of the fastest in the world, with trains travelling at 250mph.

The intercity train service we have at the moment is relatively good. Trains run every half hour from Edinburgh Waverley to London Kings Cross and take around four and a half hours.

However, "High Speed 2" as the project is being called (High Speed 1 is the completed Euro-tunnel line) is being promoted as a green initiative to deter people from taking short haul flights. Flying has the largest carbon footprint of the different modes of transport.

A report last year said a High Speed Rail link between London and Edinburgh could reduce the time to 2 hours 40 minutes.

The Scottish HSR campaign launch, hosted at the Scottish Parliament by Charlie Gordon MSP, was timed to coincide with UK government Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond's address to the Transport Times Conference in London.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow council leaders, Jenny Dawe and Gordon Matheson, said it was vital for Scotland's economy that the two largest cities are connected to High Speed 2.

Jenny Dawe: "Failure to do so from the outset will damage not just our ability to compete internationally but also our ability to compete with those other regions of the UK that will be included in the network."

Cllr Gordon Matheson: "Edinburgh and Glasgow both agree that rejecting any commitment to high-speed rail for Scotland would be short-term thinking of the worst kind."

"In fact, it's estimated that bringing the line to Scotland could take at least 20 years - so long-term thinking and planning is absolutely crucial and we believe we have a strong case for building this rail network from both ends."

Question: what will come first to Edinburgh - trams or High Speed Rail?

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The Campaign to Protect Rural England isnt happy with the HSR plans due to the fact that at speeds of 250mph the route would have to plough a straight line through open countryside.

The charity says in a release: " Such excessive speeds require much straighter routes which make it harder for new tracks to follow valleys, rail lines or motorways. This means that only routes that largely cut through open countryside are being considered."

Here's what Ralph Smyth, senior transport campaigner for CPRE, says:

”The plans currently on the table would give the UK the fastest rail line in the world but at huge cost to the tranquillity and beauty of the countryside. It’s as if Ministers have gone out to buy a family car and come back with a Ferrari - it may impress the neighbours but it’s just not practical.”


"CPRE believes there is a good case for increasing rail capacity, which could include carefully planned High Speed Rail. The charity is asking for the public consultation proposed for 2011 to include real choices, including a 186mph route like the Channel Tunnel Rail Link that runs along existing motorways and railways, keeping intrusion into the countryside to a minimum."


Excellent news but please dont let it go the way of the Edinburgh Tram Project. You should involve Transport Scotland and as many and as varied a group of supporters as can be mustered to ensure that this is a project that "flies" (sic). If our renewable uptake keeps on apace, high speed trains to Scotland will be carbon neutral as well as fast. We should also lend our voice to the campaign to ensure that HS2 connects directly to HS1.

The CPRE also said that the trains would drag trees over and exagerated the land take of this 2 track railway.  Trains are already going within 20mph of the proposed speed - without such effects!

They are right to suggest that more of the line runs alongside motorways like the M40, but they are wrong to encourage nimbys to talk their own property values down with scare stories.

We need to join the rest of the world on this. There are 13,500km of 200mph rail lines recently built,  11,000km more is under construction now and a similar amount planned by 2020 in countries that compete with Britain.  We have only 100km here - and HS2 is not included in those figures.

Most lines pay back their costs within 20-30 yrs. Unlike commuter rail, High Speed Rail attracts enough new passengers (from mainly air plus road) to make profits. 

Getting the London-Scotland journey time down is the key to success here.  Reaching just Birmingham will do very little.  Suggesting that we need to spend £30 billion on two routes that go all the way up both the east and west coast could mean that nothing ever gets built.

The best business case can be made for a route capable of 250mph max (210mph average) from London-Brum airport-Manchester airport to just north of Penrith.  Double length trains could split at Manchester airport or Carlise to serve both Glasgow and Edinburgh via an improved Carstairs triangle with spurs to Glasgow and Edinburgh that could also form a new fast link between Glasgow and Edinburgh running just souh of Shotts (ie a big Triangle).

With 250mph max to Penrith we would not need a new line all the way. The Carstairs-Carlisle route would just need some capacity upgrade work.

That way we get London-Glasgow and London-Edinburgh journey times to 2.5 hrs with only 250miles of new track.  We would have a fast-link between Glasgow and Edinburgh that would form the end of a route from London running via Brum and Manchester.   Leeds & Newcastle would be 1hr and 2hrs from London via a spur from Lichfield to Doncaster.

The last question though is why we need wait until 2025 for this when our competitors in Spain and China take only 7 years to get new lines designed and built.