A DECISION on whether to extend the HS2 high-speed rail link to Scotland has yet to be made by ministers, the UK government has said.
Journey times between London and Birmingham will be reduced as part of the first phase of HS2, before a second phase will see the high-speed line split in two towards both Manchester and Leeds.
“Westminster has shown a total lack of ambition”SNP’s Drew Hendry
Politicians in Scotland hope the line will eventually be brought north of the Border to reduce the journey time from Glasgow or Edinburgh to London to around three hours, compared with around four-and-a-half hours today..
The Department for Transport said that advice on the options for high-speed rail to Scotland has been completed by HS2 Ltd, the company responsible for developing the project, and is now with ministers, who are considering the next steps.
When the scheme was launched in 2009, the then transport secretary, Lord Adonis, claimed it would be “the union railway, uniting England and Scotland, north and south, richer and poorer parts of our country, sharing wealth and opportunity”.
However, it was reported yesterday that HS2 Ltd had moved away from the idea of extending high-speed, and is instead looking at enhancements to existing lines. HS2 is currently focused on reducing journey times from London to Birmingham to 49 minutes, before it splits into lines to Manchester and Leeds over two phases.
SNP Westminster transport spokesman Drew Hendry said such a decision would be “outrageous” and a “snub” to Scotland.
Mr Hendry said: “It would be outrageous if the UK government planned to snub Scotland on HS2 and these claims would confirm fears that the feasibility study, which was sent to ministers months ago, had been held back until after the election.
“Including Scotland in HS2 would be transformative and not only deliver greater economic and business returns but also maximise environmental benefits.
“The Westminster establishment have shown a total lack of ambition throughout the development of plans for HS2 and seems committed to keeping Scotland in the slow lane.
“There is an undeniable economic case to connect Scotland to the rest of the UK and the continent. Inclusion of Scotland in Westminster’s HS2 plans will improve connectivity and remove barriers for businesses in remote and rural parts of the country.”
A Department for Transport said ministers were considering advice from HS2 bosses on how the scheme could benefit Scotland.
The spokesman said “The government is committed to a genuinely national high speed rail network and Scotland will benefit from high speed services from the moment HS2 opens.
“We look forward to continued close co-operation with the Scottish Government to maximise the benefits that Scotland gets from a high speed Britain.
“Advice prepared by HS2 Ltd to identify broad options for high speed and upgraded railways to Scotland has been completed on time and is now with ministers, who are considering next steps.
“This advice will be published in due course.”
However, Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We are committed to HS2. We’ve always said that it’s something that’s going to benefit every part of the country.”