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Governments aim to deliver 3-hour journeys between Scotland and London

Words: Laura Edgar

The UK and Scottish governments have agreed to works aimed at reducing train times between London and Scotland’s central belt.

The agreement comes alongside the publication of a feasibility study by HS2 Ltd.

It looked at whether upgrading the existing West Coast Main Line (WCML) and East Coast Main Line (ECML), as well as options for extending high-speed routes north from HS2 Phase Two, would reduce journey times from around four-and-a-half hours to three hours from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The report was jointly commissioned by the UK and Scottish governments.

High-speed rail


According to the report, Broad Options For Upgraded And High Speed Railways To The North Of England And Scotland, the first phase of HS2 will reduce the journey time between Glasgow and London to three hours and 56 minutes. Additionally, services on the second phase of HS2 “will commence by the end of 2033”, reducing the journey time between London and Edinburgh to three hours and 39 minutes, and three hours and 38 minutes between London and Glasgow.

Connectivity will also improve between London and the North of England once the first and second stages of HS2 are completed.

Phase one will see journey times from London to Preston completed in one hours and 41 minutes, down from two hours and eight minutes, according to the report. Journey times from London to Newcastle will be reduced from two hours and 49 minutes to two hours and 17 minutes on completion of phase two.

The report suggests that a continuous route from the northern end of the second phase of HS2 to the edges of Glasgow and Edinburgh would comprise over 190 miles of new railway and cost £27 billion. HS2 says it "assumed these high-speed routes would be designed to the same requirements as the proposed HS2 route, to deliver a design speed of 250 mph (400kph)".

Upgrades to existing lines


According to the report, upgrades to the existing network would deliver “limited journey time savings”.

Achieving a three-hour journey time from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh by upgrading existing lines “would require around 137 miles of new high-speed bypasses on the WCML”. These, the report states, would cost £17 billion to £19 billion, and present “sustainability and engineering challenges”.

Upgrading the ECML, with bypasses of 93 to 136 miles of bypasses, could deliver a three-hour journey time, the report suggests, but only to Edinburgh – not Glasgow. “This would cost £11 billion to £13 billion without addressing the capacity issues; a solution addressing the capacity issues would cost up to £20 billion.”

Upgrades, the report says, “would cost less than a new line and would allow benefits to be delivered in stages, but would not bring the same capacity benefits nor provide the resilience of a new line”.

High-speed rail will ‘benefit Scotland’s economy’


Scottish infrastructure secretary Keith Brown said the report is a “major milestone” in the campaign to deliver high-speed rail to Scotland.

“I now have a firm commitment that development work will begin during the current control period towards getting journey times between Scotland and London down to three hours or less,” he said.

High-speed rail will “bring billions of pounds worth of benefit to Scotland’s economy and an infrastructure project of this magnitude means jobs, investment, benefits for the economy and benefits for the environment”.

UK Government HS2 minister Robert Goodwill added: “Together with the Scottish Government, we will be asking Network Rail to identify any options with a strong business case, for consideration for inclusion in future plans.”

The UK and Scottish Governments have agreed to further work that aims to reduced the journey times between Edinburgh and Glasgow to London to three hours or less; ease congestion on cross-Border routes and create jobs, investment opportunities and bring environmental and economic benefits to Scotland.

The report can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | Virgin East Coast