High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Scottish Association for Public Transport (HSR 36)


Our Association was formed in 1962 to campaign for better public transport, and has for many years strongly supported the case for High Speed Rail in Britain. We organised a major "Fast Track North" conference in Glasgow in 2005, jointly with the Railway Forum. We also initiated regular meetings of the "HS2S" Group (High Speed to Scotland). This group included Scottish Financial Enterprise, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Edinburgh and Glasgow City Councils, Strathclyde and South-East Scotland Regional Transport Partnerships.

Our short submission focuses on the long term strategic need for High Speed Rail in Britain, and the need to include Glasgow and Edinburgh fully in HS2 planning. We leave technical and financial issues to organisations more qualified to provide this information.

1.  Arguments for High Speed Rail Technology

Anglo-Scottish Travel

1.1  Scotland is far from other UK centres of population (400 miles Edinburgh-London).

1.2  Scotland is dependent on air travel for most Anglo-Scottish journeys, with around 80% of London journeys from Glasgow and Edinburgh made by air. Rail journeys of 4 hours 30 minutes are not regarded as competitive by most business travellers.

1.3  But the cost of air travel is rising due to oil costs and environmental taxes.

1.4  Future oil reserves, and the balance between oil supply and demand, cannot be predicted with certainty over the long 20 year period needed for HSR construction. (Oil prices have quadrupled in the last eight years, from $25 to over $100 per barrel). While road and rail transport have alternatives to oil, there is no such option for air.

1.5  Scottish business, particularly the important Financial and Tourism sectors, depends on easy accessibility to and from other centres.

European Travel Comparison

1.6  Development of High Speed Rail throughout mainland Europe since 1984 (when the first TGVs were introduced) has given Europeans fast transport links which do not depend on oil. The European HSR network is still expanding.

1.7  Brussels and Paris are now around two hours from London by Eurostar.

1.8  From 2013, Amsterdam, Cologne and Lyon are expected to be closer in time to London by train than either Edinburgh or Glasgow.


Failure by the UK to adopt HSR technology that is now widespread in Europe and Japan will have a particularly bad affect on Anglo-Scottish travel in the long term, and is likely to hinder the Scottish economy and widen the North/South gap.

2.  HSR and Government Transport Policy

As it is understood HS2 would follow the budgetary spending pattern of CrossRail and Thameslink in London, it would not necessarily impact on other transport projects. Indeed, HS2 would represent a welcome re-allocation of spending from London to the eight largest cities north of London, revolutionising intercity travel speed and capacity to Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Surely this must be the most strategic national transport project in British history?

3.  Business Case

Building a new conventional line would do nothing to reduce Anglo-Scottish rail journey times towards the European HSR norm of under three hours for 400 mile journeys. It would also not significantly reduce local impact or capital cost. Upgrading existing rail routes has been shown on the WCML to be costly, highly disruptive, and much less effective than building new High Speed Lines.

4.  The Strategic Route

The HSR route should be planned all the way from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Network Rail's "New Lines" analysis showed that inclusion of Glasgow and Edinburgh in a proposed HSR would improve the business case, due to the high level of additional revenue transferred from Anglo-Scottish flights, and corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions.

The proposed "Y" configuration is consistent with an Anglo-Scottish route, but the Manchester-Scotland route strategy should be planned simultaneously with the Midlands-Manchester/Leeds routes, with planning targeted for completion by the end of 2011.

5.  Economic Rebalancing

Economic analysis of HSR must, to be relevant, attempt to predict transport conditions over a very long timeframe, taking into account a range of probable future fuel price trends, road and rail congestion growth rates, and environmental restrictions on aviation.

There is a danger that rejection of HSR technology in Britain, when it is already widespread in mainland Europe and Japan, will have a serious long-term economic impact from the Midlands northwards. Economic growth could instead be concentrated on the London-Paris-Frankfurt triangle, which is served by a network of intercity High Speed Lines.

Britain won economic dominance by being at the forefront of the industrial revolution. We risk losing competitiveness if we reject the 21st century HSR transport revolution.

6.  Impact

Comparison of carbon emissions between HSR and conventional trains should factor in the generally much higher load factors achieved on High Speed trains.

The environmental cost of HSR train noise needs to be compared with the reduction in noise from domestic flights at all London airports, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and other airports where the number of take-offs and landings are likely to reduce. People who live in densely populated regions affected by aircraft noise deserve just as much consideration as those lucky enough to live in affluent areas of the country near London.

May 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011