TRAIN journeys between Edinburgh and London could be reduced to just three hours by the 2030s, the UK government’s high-speed rail minister Robert Goodwill has said.
Mr Goodwill’s remarks came as the UK and Scottish governments helped launch a report from the company behind the HS2 high-speed rail project into “broad options for upgraded and high-speed railways” to the north of England and Scotland.
The HS2 Ltd report sets out proposals for reduced journey times, including those from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London to three hours or under.
The current fastest rail journeys from Edinburgh and Glasgow to the UK capital take more than four hours.
Mr Goodwill and Scotland’s infrastructure secretary Keith Brown launched the improvement plan at Waverley station.
The UK and Scottish governments have agreed that further work will be carried out next year to identify the options with the best business case.
Journey times between London and Glasgow will be reduced from around four-and-a-half hours to three hours and 56 minutes when the first phase of HS2 opens in 2026.
However, Mr Goodwill said that “we are looking at the 2030s” for when rail journeys between Scotland and London could realistically be reduced to three hours.
He said: “We’re singing as a duet on this as the Scottish and UK governments are very much in agreement.”
Mr Goodwill added: “Scotland will benefit from HS2 from the day it opens, with shorter journey times to London from the start.
“We’re looking at getting it to three hours some time after 2033. We’re looking at the 2030s for when it could happen.”
The cost of the suggestions range from £17 billion to £43bn, although some improvements could be introduced in stages.
Mr Brown said the reduction in journey times between Scotland’s Central Belt and London would deliver billions of pounds in benefits to the Scottish economy.
He said: “This plan will bring to life our target of three hours or less Glasgow and Edinburgh-London train journeys, which will lead to a significant move from air to rail, bringing big reductions in carbon emissions.
“High-speed rail will bring billions of pounds’ worth of benefit to Scotland’s economy and an infrastructure project of this magnitude – possibly the biggest Scotland’s ever seen – means jobs, investment, benefits for the economy and benefits for the environment.”
Meanwhile, rail passengers travelling between Edinburgh and Glasgow faced disruption on the first day of major repair works.
Commuters were warned they face longer journeys for the next five months due to a major upgrade at Glasgow’s Queen Street Station.
The station’s high-level tunnel, used by Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Stirling services, will be closed for the duration of the £60 million repair project.
Diversions caused by the work mean most journeys will take about 25 minutes longer than usual.