Thursday, 23 April 2009

MSPs must fight for high-speed network

From The Herald, Thursday 23 April 2009
By Brian Currie

Scotland must fight its corner if it is to secure a high-speed cross-border rail link, MSPs have been told.

They overwhelmingly backed a report by Holyrood's Transport Committee which said any development of a high-speed network across the UK must include Scotland from the outset.

SNP MSP Rob Gibson highlighted The Herald's campaign to improve rail services, contrasting failings highlighted in reports with the "step-change" travellers experienced when using Eurostar.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie, the committee convener, told Parliament the UK had been left behind by other European countries which invested heavily in their rail networks during the 1980s and 90s.

He welcomed a recent announcement by UK Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon that a company would be set up to look at future rail travel, beginning with a link between London and the West Midlands. However, he warned: "It is essential that Scotland begins to fight its own corner, very clearly making the case that if high-speed rail is going to be built, it should be built all the way making the maximum possible gain in journey times."

He said a strong business case and political consensus should be built up around the concept to ensure it benefited Scotland. "We need those systems to be capable of withstanding several changes of government, both at UK and Scottish level to maintain the momentum and make sure that the idea becomes a reality," he added.

Labour's transport spokesman Des McNulty said Scotland had more to gain from high-speed rail than almost any other part of the UK.

"It's our access to the south east of England and through the south east to continental Europe and other places. It's absolutely crucial for us."

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