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England-Scotland Transport Links

Volume 554: debated on Thursday 29 November 2012

On rail, we are providing for improved links between Scotland and England through the High Speed 2 project, and the inter-city express programme will allow us to provide better services along the east coast main line. On roads, we announced on 23 May that the A1 north of Newcastle to the Scottish border has now been classified as a route of strategic national importance.

I am sure that the Minister will agree that better rail links between Scotland and England are vital to the Scottish economy and, indeed, that of the UK. What immediate steps has he taken to improve links between, for example, Aberdeen and Dundee on the east coast and London?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that one of this Government’s priorities is to improve rail links throughout England, Wales and Scotland through electrification. On his specific question about improving services in Scotland, that is a matter for Arriva and the Scottish Government—[Interruption.] Sorry, not Arriva. It is a matter for the provider of train services in Scotland and the Scottish Government. We will work with them, as we have done in the past and will continue to do, to ensure that the improvements that Scotland needs are made.

The Government committed themselves to the inter-city express programme train contract in July. Will the Minister explain how that will improve services between Scotland and England, particularly journey times?

It will make a significant improvement because it means enhanced rolling stock along the whole east coast main line from London to Edinburgh, which I believe will make journey times from Edinburgh to England about 15 minutes quicker overall. However, we should also take into account the improved quality of the service and the improvements to the track on the east coast main line.

The resolution of the west coast main line franchise issues will be important in enabling improvements to services in those areas. When did the Minister decide to postpone the publication of the Laidlaw report on the franchise fiasco?

I would like to reassure the hon. Lady that there is no question of postponing publication of the report; we hope to publish it shortly.

The existing plans for high-speed rail will reduce journey times from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London by almost an hour, but the ultimate aim must be high-speed rail all the way to Glasgow and Edinburgh. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Scottish Government on extending the lines north from Leeds and Manchester all the way to Glasgow and Edinburgh?

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in early October, we will be looking at the feasibility of extending HS2 to Scotland via Leeds and Manchester, and we will certainly be holding discussions with the Scottish Government in due course to move forward analysis on the proposal.