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Baker urges Scotland to back high speed rail

Scottish politicians and business leaders have been urged to support the Westminster government’s proposals for a new high speed rail network or risk missing out on influencing the plans for the route.

Transport Minister Norman Baker issued the call in the same week as the Scottish transport minister Keith Brown backed plans for the high speed line to be extended to Scotland.

The government is proposing a £32bn ‘Y’ shaped high speed rail network stretching from London to Manchester and Leeds. From there connections onto existing lines would enable direct high speed services to Scotland, cutting current typical journey times from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh by an hour. The Government is now working with the Scottish Government to explore how journey times to Scotland could be further reduced.

The proposed network would be delivered in two phases - the first a line from London to the West Midlands, and the second the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds. The Government is currently holding a public consultation its proposals for high speed rail which runs until 29 July 2011.

Transport Minister Norman Baker urged people to get involved. He said: “High speed rail has the potential to shrink the UK and bring our great cities closer together in a way that has never been possible before.

“HS2 would deliver significant benefits for Scotland, which must not be ignored. Our proposed line runs from London to Leeds and Manchester, but experience in Europe has taught us that high speed rail networks are built in stages. If this network is to be built and if Scotland is to link up to it, it is vital that we hear vocal support now and that everybody understands the transformational impact it would have on the economy.”

At the Scottish National Party conference in Glasgow on 12 March, Brown supported a plan for high speed rail to be brought to Scotland, proposed by City of Edinburgh councillor Tom Buchanan. However, he stated concerns that the cost of extending the line to Scotland would be around £15bn.

He told Buchanan: “I think there’s no difference between i us on the need for High speed rail and its significance for Scotland. £15bn is the figure that we have, which comes to half the Scottish [annual] budget, how are we going to find it?”

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