Edinburgh to Glasgow high-speed rail link report due

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Transport Minister Keith Brown told the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee Scotland will not see overall benefits from the UK high speed rail development until it is connected to Edinburgh and Glasgow and until it does Scotland would be at a "relative economic disadvantage".

Mr Brown was giving evidence on high-speed rail in the first part of the committee on 20 February 2013.

Details of the next phase of the £32bn high speed rail phase 2 (HS2) were unveiled by the UK government along two branches only as far as Manchester and Leeds.

The chancellor has called HS2 "an engine for growth" but phase one plans have already faced opposition.

Mr Brown said the new high-speed rail link planned between Edinburgh and Glasgow would have many benefits including improving the case for extending high-speed rail from Manchester and Leeds to the two Scottish cities.

He said work was now under way to produce a report outlining the costs and benefits of the proposal.

The committee then took evidence from Councillor Lesley Hinds and Ewan Kennedy from the City of Edinburgh Council on the Forth Road Bridge Bill.

Transport Scotland states the principal objective of the Forth Road Bridge Bill is to pave the way for the most cost-effective and co-ordinated approach to the management and maintenance of the new Forth Crossing and the Forth Road Bridge (FRB).

The Bill makes provision to trunk the road over the Forth Road Bridge, which means that the Scottish government becomes the roads authority; transfer all of the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) property, assets and liabilities to the Scottish Government; and dissolve FETA, which currently manages and maintains the Forth Road Bridge.

Councillor Hinds expressed concerns that the City of Edinburgh Council could end up with financial liabilities with the dissolution of FETA.

The liabilities could arise as a result of outstanding claims from landowners going to arbitration, following the construction of the M9 link road.

Ewan Kennedy from the City of Edinburgh Council accepted the estimated figure of £4.4m was "not likely to come to pass" but said there were 180 outstanding claimants.

Councillor Hinds said the council had held discussions with Transport Scotland and felt "a bit more comfort" about the issue and the discussions were ongoing.

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