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A new Edinburgh-Newcastle railway could achieve the same aims as HS2

Ian Bell, writing about the high-speed railway proposals, or HS2, ("I rail against the true north being cut out of the loop", The Herald, January 30) is correct to write that any construction should start at Glasgow or Edinburgh and proceed south.

As he also mentions, there are not only economic reasons for such a course of action, but strong environmental considerations that should be part of business-case assessments that have so far not been fully acknowledged by London interests.

Internationally, it is accepted that, at a journey time of around three or three-and-a-half hours city centre to city centre, rail becomes competitive with air travel. This target could be achieved between Edinburgh and London Kings Cross with a new direct railway from Edinburgh to Newcastle, or more specifically between Monktonhall Junction (near Musselburgh), tunnelling under the Lammermuirs and via the Borders to Stannington south of Morpeth, which would have the potential to halve the current 90-minute journey from Edinburgh to Newcastle. Overall journey time to London would reduce to around three-and-a-half hours or less, bringing about a massive reduction in environmentally-damaging short-haul flights.

A second line, from a junction in the Galashiels-Greenlaw area and via Peebles to Carstairs, would allow direct connection to Glasgow, with splitting of London to Edinburgh and Glasgow train sections at Newcastle rather than a time-consuming stop at Carstairs.

These links could be built completely independently of the proposed London -Birmingham-Manchester-Leeds route, and without waiting until 2033.

John Edwards,

128 Springfield Road,

Linlithgow.

THE HS2 project from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds provides a "Heart of England" strategy for growth founded on improving inter-city connectivity. The project may be relevant for the development of these conurbations, but such a strategy is in large measure irrelevant to Scotland, for our economic growth increasingly depends on being better connected with the dynamic urban centres of northern Europe and North America. Development of commerce and tourism requires that there are frequent, speedy, and preferably direct, inter-city air links to and from Scotland. Within Scotland faster rail and road connections are also required to improve inter-city connectivity.

Scotland has a national planning framework which gives spatial expression to a national transport strategy. The key projects within that strategy aim to enhance our city airports and inter-city air services and to deliver strategically-targeted infrastructure to make Scotland better connected internally and well linked internationally.

HS2 contributes nothing to achieving improved transport provision within Scotland and for the foreseeable future debate on the extension of that rail link northwards will be little more than a distraction.

David Kirk,

Millbank, Cupar.

IAN Bell's splendid comments about the blind indifference of the London-based Government towards Scotland on the subject of the proposed HS2 rail line is spot on on just about every point.

He is correct to point out that independence would not solve Scotland's transport problems, but independence would save us from paying our share of the prodigious £33 billion cost of a project that will bring minimal benefit to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and possibly disadvantage those places further north.

HS2 is just the latest in a series of hugely expensive southern English infrastructure projects (for instance the M25, Olympics, Crossrail, London's sewage system, airport terminals and rail links) which our poor old "better together" Scotland has had to pay up for.

Ian Grant,

2 Ashburnham Gardens,

South Queensferry.

DURING preparation for the construction of the Channel Tunnel in 1988 there was great concern here that this would be of little obvious benefit to Scotland and, indeed, would damage Scotland's ability to compete commercially. UK taxes and oil revenue were to be used to pay for the Tunnel and this therefore further disadvantaged Scotland on several fronts. Those with long memories will recall that solemn pledges were made by politicians in Westminster that, when the tunnel was completed in 1994, there would be a dedicated high-speed railway line built to connect Scotland directly with the tunnel.

This promise, empty as usual, had the effect of silencing the critics and assuaging the fears at the time but, almost needless to say, was never fulfilled. Instead, almost 20 years later, we have the proposal for a high-speed rail link to Birmingham and the north of England only.

Nigel Dewar Gibb,

15 Kirklee Road,

Glasgow.

ALAN Reid, Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, claims (Letters, January 30) that every mile of high-speed railway line laid will reduce journey time regardless of whether it is laid from Scotland or from the London end. One factor he ignores is that a large part of the cost of such a project is that of buying up the land on which to lay the line. Since land in the south of England is vastly more expensive than land in southern Scotland, we could shorten journey time for much less money by laying the first 200 miles of track in Scotland and northern England.

This would also serve to reduce the resistance which he fears from Tory MPs, since they are very sparse in these areas.

Dr Willie Wilson,

57 Gallowhill Road,

Lenzie.

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