CIVIL engineers have called for high-speed rail to be extended amid warnings that a failure to broaden existing plans will leave Scotland's transport network at a disadvantage.

The Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland said that a meaningful shift from air to rail between London and Scotland’s central belt is only achievable if the high speed rail project (HS2) is brought north of the Border.

Under current proposals, HS2 will link London with Birmingham, reducing its 81-minute travel time to 49 minutes, before forking to provide onward routes to Manchester and Leeds.

However, the link was originally envisioned by former Labour transport secretary Lord Andrew Adonis as uniting people north and south of the border.

Ronnie Hunter, chair of the ICE Scotland state of the nation steering group, said: “The completion of the Borders Railway, and its early success, has shown us that there can be a bright future for railways in Scotland.

"It is now time for the Scottish Government to outline a clear determination to enhance and upgrade our strategic rail network for the long term.

“That means working with the UK Government to extend high-speed rail to Glasgow and Edinburgh, with a travel time of less than three hours, in order to provide a realistic option for Scotland-London commuters.

“If we fail to make this happen the vision many have of rail competing meaningfully with air on travel to English cities will remain a fantasy rather than a reality.”

ICE Scotland is this week releasing its Scottish Infrastructure Scorecard, which is compiled using evidence from expert members and stakeholders and is used to analyse the government’s transport policy as one of five major areas of infrastructure.

Speaking in 2009, Lord Adonis said: "I see this as the union railway, uniting England and Scotland, north and south, richer and poorer parts of our country, sharing wealth and opportunity, pioneering a fundamentally better Britain."

In May this year, Scottish MPs reacted furiously to claims that the group behind the HS2 project had argued there was no "business case" to extend the line into Scotland.

Drew Hendry, the SNP's transport spokesman at Westminster, said including Scotland in HS2 would be transformative but added: "The Westminster establishment have shown a total lack of ambition throughout the development of plans for HS2 and seems committed to keeping Scotland in the slow lane."

There is currently only 68 miles of verifiable high-speed rail in Britain, which runs from London to the Channel Tunnel.

Other major countries in Europe have invested heavily in their transport infrastructure, and in some cases the travel time has been reduced by more than half.

At present, services make the 345-mile trip between Glasgow and London in no less than four and a half hours.

However, the journey from Madrid to Barcelona, around 315 miles away, can be made in two and a half hours, while those heading from Paris to Marseille, a distance 410 miles, will arrive in the south of France in just over three hours.

Speaking ahead of the HS2 conference in Edinburgh later this week, Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said: “I have always maintained that we must extend the high-speed rail network further and faster to Scotland in order to deliver significant economic benefits by boosting growth and providing more and better opportunities.

“Not only are the effective transport connections that a high-speed rail network entails vital in ensuring that our businesses are able to compete and grow, but Scotland’s world class supply chain businesses can also play a key role in delivering this project, building skills, capability and jobs for the next generation."

HS2 Ltd has said previously that work on improving the rail links between Scotland and the south of England is being considered and that commuters north of the border would benefit from high-speed services from the moment HS2 opens.