Plans on how rail links between England and Scotland could be improved to capitalise on High Speed 2 (HS2) are ramping up.
The plans are being developed over two feasibility studies which will form the basis of a business case which will be submitted in late 2019 to both the Scottish and British governments for consideration. Further feasibility studies are expected to follow at a later date.
The first study, which was commissioned by Transport Scotland, on behalf of the HS2 to Scotland Working Group, started in March and is expected to be published by the end of the year.
Consultant Arup carried out the work which looked into a range of options to improve connections the east coast main line (ECML) between Newcastle and Edinburgh, and on the west coast main line (WCML) between Abington and Glasgow.
The second study is planned to start in January next year, but will focus on an “undisclosed geographical area”.
“These potential infrastructure enhancements, if implemented, would provide a truly transformational improvement in connectivity between the major towns and cities in the north of England and Scotland,” said Transport Scotland High Speed Rail Project Manager Alastair Young. “The Scottish Government supports the ambition of high speed rail to improve the capacity of the rail network, relieve overcrowding, improve reliability and deliver a more productive economy by bridging the north-south divide, increasing trading, boosting tourism and regenerating the towns and cities it serves.”
The ECML study includes options for how capacity on the line could be increased and significant reductions in journey time between Newcastle and Edinburgh (reduced by 30 mins to 1 hour), Newcastle and Glasgow (1 hour 40 mins from 2 hours 40 mins), and Newcastle and Aberdeen (3 hours).
The study also included ways in which in conjunction with HS2 phases 1 and 2, the journey between London and Glasgow / Edinburgh could be reduced by 2 hours to just 3 hours.
On the WCML the study looks into ways of significantly increasing capacity north of Abington and a sub 1 hour journey time between Carlisle and Glasgow. It also looks into creating a new local and cross-border interchange station within the Eurocentral business park with direct cross-border links to north west and north east England and London and the creation of a new cross-border station on the existing rail network near Livingston.
The work is being carried out as a result of a joint commitment made by the UK and Scottish governments in March 2016. As a result of the agreement, a North of HS2 to Scotland Working Group, comprising of representatives from the DfT, Transport Scotland, HS2 Ltd and Network Rail was formed.
The group had already identified a short-list of options which it said merited further investigation from around 200 potential infrastructure interventions that had been identified from previous studies.
These interventions ranged from relatively small projects such as remodelling of junctions and re-profiling of individual curves, to large scale interventions such as relatively long new route sections that could bypass congested or constrained sections of the existing West and East Coast Main Lines.
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