High-speed rail will hit pockets hard
Claims that providing high-speed rail from the north of England to Scotland, and between Glasgow and Edinburgh, would bring huge benefits are highly dubious (your report, 13 November).
France and Spain have extensive high-speed rail systems but are in the economic doldrums. Proposals to extend the system are being re-examined; huge subsidies are needed to run the trains.
Japan is also failing to prosper. I have seen many of its high-speed trains running with only a third of seats occupied. Fares are astronomical.
Just who would benefit from reducing travel time between Edinburgh and Glasgow by 15 minutes and how?
Already passenger train services benefit mainly the better-off. Their subsidies reduce funds available for helping those who rarely, if ever, use trains.
Extending HSR from Manchester to Glasgow/Edinburgh would only reduce travel times from London by a few minutes whereas the cost would be enormous. Anyway, by the time the project could be built, more than 20 years hence, economic conditions will have changed radically, as will technology in ways which cannot be foreseen.
Politicians everywhere have a liking for large, costly, risky and showy projects using funds which could far better be used on many smaller, mundane schemes. This seems to the case here.
I read that Scottish ministers have decided to move ahead with plans to create a high-speed rail route between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
They boasted that the train would be able to travel at speeds of around 140mph, have a journey time of less than 30 minutes and forecast that the project would be completed by 2024.
Have we not learnt our lesson from the Edinburgh trams fiasco? The trams in essence merely replace the No 22 bus. The eight-mile track has been under construction since 2008 and is still not completed. At £300 million over-budget, the trams fiasco is another black mark on Scotland’s record for infrastructure investment and building projects. And let’s not forget the Scottish Parliament building, which ended up costing the taxpayer ten times what was first predicted, at £431m.
So you can understand my cynicism when told that the Scottish Government plans to tackle a mammoth 46-miles of track over both city and rural landscapes.
This is a bold move that will be relying on people voting “yes” for independence in 2014 and the SNP holding on to power in the 2016 elections.
That, coupled with the new Forth replacement crossing projected to cost around £790m, leaves the government open to heavy criticism should any of the projects spiral out of control.
I can see it now: construction companies tearing up the picturesque landscape of the Central Belt as they forge a path between two cities, next to a railway line that is already there.
Surely the sensible thing to do would be to upgrade existing rail routes and trains, which already go to Glasgow. Perhaps look at electrifying the line to reduce pollution, or the money could be used to develop the Borders railway line which at this time is seeking funding from ScotRail to continue.
I fear with all this public spending it is only a matter of time before we, the taxpayers bear the costs.
To link up Scotland with any high-speed railway line advancing north through England is a sensible longer term ambition, but please could we get our internal Scottish railway lines fixed first?
You quote the cities and infrastructure minister saying that a high-speed line between Edinburgh and Glasgow could be built within “just 12 years” and that it “will benefit our businesses, our jobs market and tourism industry”.
These same benefits would apply to the “strategic” and “priority” projects to provide faster services with an hourly frequency between Edinburgh/Glasgow and Inverness, and between Inverness and Aberdeen.
Full completion was promised for 2011 and 2016 but this has inexplicably been put back to 2025 and 2030 respectively.
Business leaders in central Scotland have been pleading for first arrivals in Inverness soon after 9am rather than the 10:26am currently achieved. Freight operators have been asking for extra passing loop capacity on both these single track lines.
Now that the cities and infrastructure briefs have been linked, I trust that it will be easier to move these projects rapidly forward such that passengers and freight have a real alternative to the A9 and the A96.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east