Keith Brown: HS2 agreement ends long and tortuous process

Keith Brown is Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities. Picture John Devlin
Keith Brown is Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities. Picture John Devlin
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Tomorrow I will be joined by the UK government’s Minister for High Speed Rail Robert Goodwill to mark a major milestone in the campaign to get Scotland-London train journeys down to three hours. It’s been a long time in the making.

In 2011, the Department for Transport started to prepare its consultation on plans for HS2.

I made the case for Scotland to be included and Secretary of State Philip Hammond agreed to work on options to reduce journey times to Scotland. Then, the work stalled. In March 2013, the then Transport Secretary Justine Greening agreed to Scotland’s participation in a study. Demonstrating our own commitment, in 2012 Nicola Sturgeon, then Infrastructure Secretary, revealed Transport Scotland were assessing the case for a high-speed Edinburgh-Glasgow link, in anticipation of a subsequent link to London.

Another year passed before the Broad Options Study by HS2 was commissioned. We awaited the outcome to complete the E-G study, which recognised that economic sense dictated any Glasgow-Edinburgh high-speed link to share as much track of a north‑south line as possible. I received the draft study report in December 2014, following which, new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and I met the head of HS2 Sir David Higgins to discuss broadening the options and driving down the potential costs.

That report is published tomorrow, setting the wheels in motion for high speed rail in Scotland – necessary to get down to that three-hour journey that the UK government have now agreed on.

This concludes a long and tortuous process, and begins another, but it’s a long way from 2011 when high-speed rail was set only to benefit the south of England while we were not even allowed to join the conversation.