I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement, and for his honesty in admitting that today’s proceedings are yet another Government cock-up, which is quite the theme.
I have consistently spoken in favour of High Speed 2, so long as Scotland is not excluded. I therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s restatement of the aspiration to have a three-hour journey time to Scotland. By contrast, my scheduled journey time today from Glasgow to London was four and a half hours—50% longer—which shows the real benefits that high-speed rail could bring. However, my understanding is that when high-speed trains run on the existing network north of Crewe they will actually run slower than my train did today. Can he confirm that, and if so, what will be done to look at the rolling stock to try to improve that speed?
Can the Secretary of State also advise on the estimated journey time of three hours and 45 minutes when high-speed trains start running to Glasgow, and how much that reduced journey time will be due to the reduced number of stops? Can he confirm in which investment periods upgrades to the west coast main line north of Crewe will take place? A previous KPMG report highlighted some possible negative impacts in Scotland, including a predicted £220 million drop in economic output in Aberdeenshire, if high-speed rail continues without including Scotland. Has he updated the review of those figures, and if not, why was the Secretary of State for Scotland able to tweet that today’s announcements on high-speed rail will bring economic benefits to Scotland?
I want to reiterate the concerns about Carillion, which now has the prefix “troubled” when it is mentioned in the newspapers. What engagement has there been with Scottish companies for bids? Will the Secretary of State uphold his predecessor’s commitment that offsite constructions will definitely be in Scotland? With regard to today’s announcement about the Crewe hub, can he confirm that it will not be to the detriment of services to Scotland or the funding of upgrades north of Crewe? Finally, I offer the small reminder that the devolution of Network Rail to Scotland would allow the Scottish Government to progress upgrades north of the border much quicker.