THERE is another aspect to Ronald Peebles’ view on out-of-town stations for HS2 (Letters, 30 January). The welcome fact that the Westminster government at long last plans to start bringing the UK into line with our European cousins is gravely tempered by the fact that London-Scotland services would terminate at Edinburgh.
Twice in the past three years, those of us beyond the Central Belt have faced having our through London-Aberdeen/Inverness services axed, and twice we have gone into battle and twice we have won. We may not always be so fortunate. High-speed trains terminating at Edinburgh and Glasgow will absolutely diminish the future prosperity of Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness unless some kind of through provision is established.
If, by a wave of a magic wand, HS2 reached Edinburgh tomorrow, northbound passengers at Waverley would be faced with changing trains, hauling luggage across platforms, accessing ticket barriers and then journeying onwards in the derisory suburban trains operated by First ScotRail.
A future such as this doesn’t bear thinking about. In the timescale of HS2, we may have two decades to plan. Looking back over the same timespan, we’ve had 20 years of suburban trains serving Scotland’s internal long-distance routes, and in that time, First ScotRail has refused to reveal the dreadful discomfort suffered by passengers to anyone, Passenger Focus Scotland has been ineffective, and Transport Scotland maintains a faceless and barely accountable existence. Put plainly, we haven’t advanced a 21st-century rail system for Scotland in the slightest.
Where are there plans to integrate Scotland with a UK high-speed network? Where are there plans for our own native high-speed network into which HS2 might be incorporated? Where indeed – on the lowest possible scale – are there plans by Transport Scotland to replace the current fleet of scandalously unfit-for-purpose and ridiculously named Turbostars that serve our premier Glasgow/Edinburgh to Aberdeen/Inverness services? (Let’s put to one side the fleet of cattle-class Third World trains serving Galloway and the West Highlands).
Scotland has been in a long-distance rail limbo for a generation. It’s time for us to crawl out of the swamp and create a system worthy of the nation we aspire to be. When will the Scottish Parliament take a lead?
SINCE High Speed rail would not reach Wigan until 2033 it could not extend to Glasgow-Edinburgh within the next 30 years. Just what, if any, value it would then have is impossible to say. Why present Scottish politicians and businesspeople who will have long since gone by then, are so concerned over the matter is incomprehensible.
Anyway, once London is only 3.7 hours away a further time reduction would not justify the cost of an extension of about 200 miles, much of it through hilly terrain. The additional population served would be far less per mile than will be the case with the earlier phases. Moreover, unlike the southern section of the existing main line, there may be no capacity deficiencies on the northern one. Since most of the people served would be in Scotland, it would be reasonable to expect a Scottish Government to pay for even the English section.
The business case for HS2 is also dubious. It may be that it will do more for London than anywhere else in the UK.
In Japan I have seen many HS trains only 30 per cent full. Many cannot afford to use them and stick to the ordinary services.
It is likely many more and quicker train times to Northern England could be achieved by spending the available funds in other ways, eg by building a new high speed East-West line to cut journey time across Scotland.
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