toggle nav


No need to wait for HS2 to start upgrades to the ‘classic’ network

Published 21 March 2016 by Colin Howden

Transform Scotland

For immediate use: Monday 21 March 2016

High-speed rail announcement:
No need to wait for HS2 to start upgrades to the ‘classic’ network

Transform Scotland [1] today gave a broad welcome to the joint Scottish Government and UK Government announcement of options for extending high-speed rail services to Scotland.

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

“We have long campaigned for improvements to Anglo-Scottish rail routes to allow rail to capture market share from air and the car. We welcome the development of Anglo-Scottish high-speed rail so long as its objective is to reduce the unsustainable levels of short-haul flights between Central Scotland and London. As well as helping Scotland hit its climate targets, getting rid of many of these unnecessary domestic flights would help alleviate pressure on the over-stretched London airports.

“We believe that a combination of the HS2 project from London-Birmingham plus selective upgrades to the ‘classic’ network northwards can deliver three-hour journey times to Central Scotland using ‘classic-compatible’ trains. This would likely allow rail to capture a 50% share of trips.

“We have always held that the delivery of high-speed rail services to and from Scotland is not contingent on the construction of a new high-speed line across the whole route length from London to Scotland. [2] Indeed, we believe that an insistence that a high-speed line be constructed for the whole route is likely to delay, not improve, the chances of high-speed rail services being delivered to Scotland at the earliest opportunity.”

On the topic of upgrades to the existing Anglo-Scottish rail network, Howden said:

“With rail patronage booming, there is no need to wait for HS2 to start upgrades to the ‘classic’ network. Cut-offs are required as well as line speed improvements. More capacity must be created through the creation of longer passing loops and additional tracks. Within Scotland, we have consistently highlighted the need for action to address pinch points such as the 15mph speed restriction through Carstairs.

“It is also important to focus arrival points on city centre stations and so upgrades will be required on the approaches to Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central. The stations themselves will need to be enlarged to take ‘classic-compatible’ trains as well as the ever-greater number of trains that current train operators aspire to run.”



[1] Transform Scotland is the national alliance for sustainable transport, bringing together organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors — see <> for details.

[2] This has been our position since the 2008 Scottish Parliament parliamentary inquiry on high-speed rail. See <>.