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High Speed Rail from a Scottish perspective

The case for a high-speed rail line connecting Scotland to London and the Continent is irrefutable on both economic and environmental grounds, argues Roderick McDougall of Railfuture (Scotland).

© Amanda Slater S

cotland, lying on the periphery of both the UK and Europe, relies on good communications and transport links for its economic health. Between them the wider Edinburgh and wider Glasgow areas account for over 2/3rds of Scotland’s economic output. One of Scotland’s major economic generators is tourism, which relies on excellent transport connections from the rest of the country, the Continent and the rest of the world. Edinburgh and Glasgow are both ranked in the top 30 cities in the world for conferences and almost 30% of all international association meetings held in the UK are hosted in Scotland.

As the major cities in England (Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester etc.) grow closer to each other and to London with faster rail

links, their economic

links with each other grow stronger.

The corollary to this is that their economic links with the Scottish cities grow weaker, thereby harming the Scottish economy. Rail capacity on the two routes to Scotland is estimated to reach saturation within 20 years to the future detriment of efforts to improve and expand rail freight movements across the border.

At present almost 80% of all travel between central Scotland and London is by air – around 100 fl ights per day (5.6m passengers in 2009/10), as opposed to 1.66m by rail and a negligible number by road. The carbon emissions from air travel are 131g/passenger- km whilst those from high-speed rail would be 31g/passenger-km with the current electricity generation mix and will drop as national electricity generation decarbonises.

The current travel time from central Scotland to London is generally accepted as three hours, taking into account travel time to/from the airports, check-in/security time, travel/waiting time within the airports and fl ight time.

16 | rail technology magazine Dec/Jan 13

In order to cause the major mode shift from air to rail required to have a signifi cant benefi cial effect on the environment and to counter the air transport response to signifi cant reductions in passenger numbers by reducing fares, the rail journey must reduce to less than 2.5 hrs. Obviously there will not be a 100% shift from air to rail, due to interlining at the London airports but at this journey time an 80% shift would be expected (based on similar trips in Europe where high speed rail has been introduced), thereby increasing the rail passenger level

by air); 1.84m to/from Manchester (12.3% by air); 2.33m to/from North-east England and Yorkshire (negligible by air); 0.37m to/from East Midlands (56.5% by air); 0.5m to/from Bristol (88% by air) and 0.35m to Southampton by air. There will also be signifi cant numbers by road on the shorter journeys i.e. those to Manchester, North-east England and Yorkshire.

The Eddington Report emphasises the need for any high speed stations, intermediate or terminal, serving a city to be situated within the heart of that city.

Most other studies also conclude that connectivity – both with the traditional network for onward travel to regional destinations, and with suitable transport

facilities for destinations – is essential.

As a minimum, a UK high speed rail network must connect all the major conurbations with a population greater than 0.5m, comprising the

eight ‘Core

Cities’ in England (Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle


to over 6m per annum without taking into account passenger growth or generation. These passenger numbers alone would justify non- stop hourly services from both Edinburgh and Glasgow to London.

Both the major reports by Network Rail and Greengage 21 conclude that the benefi t-to- cost ratio is signifi cantly greater when the segregated high-speed network is extended from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow than any of the other options examined. Network Rail also calculates that such a service would be virtually immediately profi table.

However London is not the only destination for public transport travellers to/from central Scotland. Figures from the Scottish Transport Statistics 2011 publication show that there are annually 0.9m to/from Birmingham (67%

Tyne, Nottingham, and Sheffi eld), Kingston upon Hull, Glasgow and London. Other signifi cant centres of population such as Bradford, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Teesside should also be included. Although the combined population of Southampton and Portsmouth would meet the above population criteria, they are far enough apart not to be considered a single destination and neither is large enough on its own to justify inclusion in the above list. However they could be considered for inclusion as part of a future network connecting to London and the initial network via Heathrow.

Conversely, although the combined population of Luton and Milton Keynes is less than the above criteria the conurbation may be considered for inclusion if the network naturally passes through the area.

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