High-speed Rail Link

– in the Scottish Parliament on 30th June 2011.

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Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

6. To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the possibility of a high-speed rail link with Scotland. (S4O-00087)

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

That is the subject of on-going dialogue. Officials held a meeting with the Department for Transport and the High Speed Two company as recently as last week, on Thursday 23 June. For my part, I have spoken with the Secretary of State for Transport on the issue, and we plan to hold further ministerial discussions in the near future.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

Does the minister agree that a high-speed rail link would greatly benefit Scotland’s economic growth and would do so far more than the proposed tram system in Edinburgh, which is a shambles, or the hugely expensive Glasgow airport rail link, both of which were supported by all the main Opposition parties in the chamber?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

The important point that the member raises is about costs and benefits. He is right to say that the high-speed rail option really only makes sense for Scotland if it comes here—that is when Scotland will get the biggest dividends—so it should do so.

I will leave it to others to talk about the benefits of trams in Edinburgh.

It is a question of ensuring that the benefits are disproportionate to the costs and that we gain a massive advantage from the project, which has happened with the M74. The same can happen with high speed 2 if there is the political will at Westminster to make it happen.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Improved rail connections between Scotland and England would be very welcome, but it is equally important to improve rail connections within Scotland. On that basis, could the minister provide an update on the Scottish Government’s plans in the strategic transport projects review to increase the frequency of rail services on the Ayr to Glasgow line, which is an improvement that is vital in the interests of local rail commuters and in support of the growing Ayrshire tourism economy?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

Yes, I could, although it would take some time. As the member will know, the frequency of those trains has increased and there have been improvements in the infrastructure. I will be happy to write to the member on the detail of that, if he would like.