Their intervention comes amid mounting concern that Government plans to construct a £17 billion route carrying 250mph trains between London and Birmingham will exclude Scotland’s two biggest cities and put them at a disadvantage to urban centres in England.
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Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, is due to join his Edinburgh counterpart Jenny Dawe at a meeting with Mr Hammond and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore this afternoon to press the case for starting construction of a cross-Border route “at both ends”.
Speaking to The Herald ahead of today’s meeting, Mr Matheson said there was an “economic, environmental and political” case for starting construction of a cross-Border route at both ends, rather than building it in phases from London upwards.
He said: “It’s essential that construction of a high-speed rail route begins at both ends of the country and meet in the middle. Our concern is that in years to come the high-speed rail network will wind its way through England and stop there, which would cut Scotland off from our major markets in England and Europe.”
His comments were echoed by Ms Dawe, who said: “It’s not good enough just to have a route that goes two-thirds of the way up England.”
Despite pledges by the Conservatives and Labour to include Scotland in their plans for high-speed rail, both have progressed plans that would see an initial route built between London and Birmingham by 2026 and longer-term ambitions to extend the network to Manchester and Leeds. Trains would be able to travel onwards to Scotland on existing tracks but this is only expected to reduce journey times to just under four hours initially and 3hrs 30mins once the network is extended.
The Scottish delegation is due to meet with Department for Transport (DfT) officials as well as MPs and Lords to press the case for Scotland.
However, a DfT spokesman said the Government was committed to a phased approach to building a high-speed network, saying: “Scotland will benefit from the current plans that we have set out to take forward the ‘Y’ network, which would reduce journey times between London and Glasgow and Edinburgh to around 3hrs 30mins.
“The Government’s longer-term policy is to build a high-speed network – ultimately the network could reach destinations in Scotland – but it has to be delivered in phases.”