Scotland business

Business backs high speed rail network

High speed rail link
Image caption The report has claimed that Scotland could benefit by £25bn from a high speed line

A high speed rail network should extend to Scotland if it is to reap economic benefits, according to a survey.

Three-quarters of businesses said they believed a fast, new link to the south would attract investment to Scotland.

The poll was carried out by the Scottish Partnership Group for High Speed Rail, which was formed by Transport Minister Keith Brown.

Mr Brown said extending the line to Scotland made the case for the proposed network stronger.

The partnership group's Fast Track Scotland document claimed the line would benefit the country to the tune of almost £25bn.

A high speed line is planned to run between London and Birmingham and the report has called for the remit of the HS2 company, formed by the Department for Transport, to be extended to consider detailed planning for Scotland.

Mr Brown said: "The argument for a high speed rail network in the UK is strong.

"But it is stronger when Scotland is included. That is the clear message from this report and one which the Scottish government fully backs."

'Environmental benefit'

Mr Brown said the consequential reduction in domestic flights could also benefit the environment.

A recent report from the House of Commons transport committee questioned the environmental benefits of HS2, but Mr Brown argued the potential benefits were huge, due to the likely reduction in demand for domestic flights.

Scottish Labour welcomed the publication of Fast Track Scotland but called on the Scottish government to spell out what they intended to do.

Infrastructure spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: "In debating Scottish government investment plans at Holyrood this week, Scottish Labour will want to know what ministers will do to safeguard land for HST (high speed train) stations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and for the new high speed lines and junctions in the South of Scotland.

"We will want to know how (Infrastructure Minister) Alex Neil will fund the Scottish end of HST, given a cost of up to £9bn."

He added: "The business case is a step forward, but SNP Ministers have many questions still to answer."

'Essential project'

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "As the UK moves towards a rapid, resilient and sustainable rail network for the 21st century, it is vital that Scotland is included from the outset."

She added: "The ball is now squarely in the court of the UK government and we are seeking a clear signal that they are prepared to work alongside the Scottish government to deliver this essential infrastructure project."

CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan, who is a member of the Scottish Partnership Group for High Speed Rail, said good internal internal transport links and external connectivity to principal markets abroad were vital to Scotland's economic success.

He added: "We are encouraged by the (Fast Track Scotland) report's focus on ensuring the development of this key infrastructure project, conscious of Scotland's physical position on the periphery of Europe and the greater consequential need to provide links to key hubs and markets."

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