As construction of the high-speed railway HS2 from London to Birmingham gets underway, the High Speed Rail Group (HSRG) has called for HS2 to be linked to Scotland to boost connectivity, cut carbon, and rebalance the economy.
In a report entitled High-Speed Rail and Scotland, the group argues that joining the route to Scotland would enhance connectivity between the two nations by cutting travel time between London and Scotland to just over three hours, pave the way for a significant reduction of carbon emissions in line with the Scottish Government’s 2045 net zero target, and level up the north of England post Covid-19.
Through a programme of upgrades to existing lines, combined with new dedicated sections of high-speed line, joining HS2 to Scotland will boost capacity and meet the projected demand for both freight and passenger travel, whilst cutting journey times to 3 hours 10 minutes. Since 2006, passenger numbers have increased between Glasgow and London by 120 per cent, between Manchester and Scotland by 191 per cent and Birmingham to Scotland by 261 per cent.
With the Scottish Government targeting net zero by 2045 and the UK Government committing to the same by 2050, the report demonstrates that joining HS2 to Scotland will make a major contribution to decarbonising travel, saving 45,000 tonnes of CO2 per year from taking freight off the road, and driving the modal shift needed to move passengers from aviation to green rail. With London to Scotland being among the busiest aviation routes in Europe, reducing the journey time of rail routes will cut demand for carbon-heavy short haul flights, as has been achieved between London and Paris since the introduction of HS1.
High-Speed Rail and Scotland shows that, since cross-border routes are travelled for business or leisure, this travel market will continue to expand post-pandemic. Boosting capacity through linking with HS2 will ensure that the cities, towns and regions along the lines of route can grow and thrive at a time when they need it most, and deliver on the Government’s ambition to level up the country.
Report author Jim Steer commented: “As the UK begins to emerge from Covid-19, the focus on a green recovery is essential.
“Over the past two months we have all seen the positive impact on air quality and the environment. While we now focus on our economic recovery, we cannot lose sight of the carbon-cutting goals we have set ourselves. As transport is now the largest contributor to the UK’s emissions, the sector has a duty to act quickly and decisively to reduce them.”
Photo above – Credit PriestmanGoode