SCOTTISH ministers yesterday condemned plans to further develop the planned high-speed rail network in England before a study to extend it to Scotland had been completed.
Anger at the “HS3” link between Manchester and Leeds came as the UK government insisted a study into extending high-speed rail to Scotland would be completed on time – even though a vow to produce a draft report by summer looks not to have been honoured.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said HS3 had attracted strong political support south of the Border “despite little evidential basis”.
By contrast, she said the UK government had failed to commit HS2 to Scotland even though it had received a “demonstrably strong assessment” by a group of major Scottish private and public sector bodies.
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A draft report into cutting journey times between Edinburgh, Glasgow and London to three hours was promised in July, with the final document to be completed by next month.The UK Department for Transport (DfT) jointly commissioned the work with the Scottish Government a year ago.
A DfT spokeswoman said when the study was launched: “We’ve asked HS2 Ltd to provide the Secretary of State for Transport with a draft report by summer 2014.”
The DfT, when asked if the report would be completed by the end of the year, told The Scotsman that “initial advice” was still being prepared, which would be published “in due course”.
However, the DfT last night changed its statement. It said: “There is no delay to this work. Ministers have been updated as the work has progressed and it is on track to be completed by the end of the year.”
Scottish ministers have long sought a commitment from their Westminster counterparts to build an HS2 line across the Border. Transport minister Keith Brown expressed frustration last week at the HS3 plans, with no apparent progress towards a Scottish link. The study is examining options to upgrade existing lines as well as extending HS2 across the Border.
The Scottish Association for Public Transport think tank also expressed concern. Chairman Dr John McCormick said: “We would hope with the outcome of the independence referendum that the Westminster government should see it as a higher priority to keep Scotland closer by having a decent transport link.”
However, High Speed Rail Scotland Group chairman Alex Macaulay said: “As I understand it, work on the study is progressing well and nearing completion. It is essential this work represents a robust analysis of the proposals.”
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