‘HS2 rail would be worth it at three times the cost’

HS2 would link London and Birmingham, then on to Manchester and Leeds ' Scottish links are still very much conjecture. Picture: PA
HS2 would link London and Birmingham, then on to Manchester and Leeds ' Scottish links are still very much conjecture. Picture: PA
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THE controversial £43 billion HS2 north-south high-speed rail project would be worth the cost at three times the price, according to city economy convener Frank Ross.

He said the current railway system was holding back economic growth, and introducing 225mph trains between London and Edinburgh would bring huge benefits to the city and Scotland.

The UK government yesterday published a revised business case showing that for every £1 spent, the wider economic benefit of the entire scheme would produce a benefit of £2.30 compared with the £2.50 estimated last year.

However, UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said HS2 was “a long-term solution to a long-term problem” which would “transform inter-city travel” and warned that without it north-south main lines would be “overwhelmed”.

Another report published earlier this week by Network Rail and engineering company Atkins said if HS2 did not go ahead there would have to be 14 years of weekend engineering work to upgrade the current lines.

The first phase of HS2 would go from London to Birmingham, with a second phase going on to Manchester and Leeds. But longer-term plans would extend the high-speed line to Edinburgh and
Glasgow.

Councillor Ross said: “The current budget for HS2 is £43bn – but even if it was £143bn, we should do it. We ploughed £500bn into keeping the financial system afloat. It would be worth it.

“People are forgetting that our existing railway system was built by our Victorian forefathers. It is failing and holding back economic growth.

“When they built the Channel Tunnel we were promised we would get links from Edinburgh to Paris and beyond, which would have been wonderful, but it didn’t happen. This project is essential for Scotland to take us forward in the 21st century. It should be built.”

Ann Faulds, chairwoman of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s transport strategy committee, said it was vital that HS2 came to Scotland,

She said: “The full potential to radically improve accessibility to Scotland can only be achieved when high-speed rail is extended to Edinburgh and Glasgow. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is vital that a high-speed rail network be established across the UK, including Scotland, to secure its competitiveness and economic prosperity. The business case for high-speed rail is strong, but stronger with Scotland’s inclusion.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com