Businesses all aboard for high-speed rail campaign

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BUSINESSES across Scotland today threw their weight behind the campaign to bring high- speed rail north of the Border.

A survey showed almost three-quarters of Scottish businesses believed extending the proposed line to Scotland would attract new investment.

The plan could mean trains travelling at up to 250mph cutting the Edinburgh-London journey time to less than three hours and benefiting the Scottish economy by an estimated £25 billion.

The UK Government is pursuing its proposed first phase of the line from London to Birmingham, but has said it wants a second phase going on to Manchester and Leeds and has also spoken of a possible third phase to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Last week, the Scottish Government said it would spend up to £9bn to bring the high speed link to Scotland and announced it was ready to start building the line from Scotland southwards at the same time as the UK Government builds it from London north.

But Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil said he wanted to see a clear commitment from the UK Government to extend the line beyond the first phase of London-Birmingham.

A report published today by the newly-formed Scottish Partnership Group for High Speed Rail, which includes Edinburgh and Glasgow city councils, the CBI, STUC, Network Rail and campaign group Transform Scotland, details the benefits the line could bring for business, communities and the environment.

The report said the line would benefit Scotland to the tune of around £24.8bn.

A survey carried out by the group found 72.5 per cent of Scottish businesses believed it would attract new investment.

The report concludes: “It is imperative that high-speed rail is developed in the UK. It is also imperative that Scotland is included if the UK is to see the full benefits of its contribution to the economy.”

Launching the document, Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “The argument for a high-speed rail network in the UK is strong. But it is stronger when Scotland is included.

“The partnership group speaks for communities and business across Scotland and it recognises how high-speed rail will stimulate our economy and encourage inward investment.

“As it would also reduce the need for domestic flights, the potential for environmental benefits is huge.

“This report sets out in very real terms just how beneficial it would be on so many fronts to have the high-speed rail network extend to Scotland.”

Research previously claimed the line from London to Birmingham would benefit the economy to the tune of £2 for every £1 invested, but bringing it to Scotland would be worth more than £7 for every £1 spent.

Scotland’s investment of £8-9bn represents a little over half the total £15.2bn estimated cost of bringing the line from north-west England to Edinburgh and Glasgow.