Scotland business

High speed rail 'will benefit Scotland', says project boss

Potential HS2 train design Image copyright HS2
Image caption HS2 bosses say the project will transform the UK economy

The person in charge of delivering the UK's new high speed rail network has said it will benefit Scotland, even though the line will stop at Leeds.

HS2 Limited chief executive Mark Thurston said the project would "significantly" cut journey times to Glasgow and Edinburgh from the south.

Scottish ministers have called for a "concrete timetable" for extending the line to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

HS2 trains are expected to be running from London to Leeds in 2033.

But the UK's biggest infrastructure project has also proven to be controversial, amid on-going questions over its exact cost, route and how it will affect people living nearby.

'Rebalance our economy'

Speaking in Glasgow, Mr Thurston told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "What it will do is significantly reduce train journey times between the city belt in Glasgow and Edinburgh, where the line will connect into the existing West Coast and East Coast main lines.

"Journey times once the full route is completed to the north of England, to the Midlands and ultimately to London for Scottish businesses and people who live in Scotland will be improved."

Mr Thurston said: "What we see is a huge amount of momentum in what HS2 will do for the Midlands and the north.

"The wider agenda for HS2 is to rebalance our economy - be a catalyst for growth and prosperity away from London and the South East."

Image caption The HS2 route is being built in a number of phases

Asked about the chances of HS2 being extended to Scotland, Mr Thurston said: "I'm not one to speculate about what might happen in the future.

"But I am very sure there are huge benefits to be had to the country by having a high speed network as the centre of the wider rail network.

"And if it comes to Scotland one day, then I'm sure it will have the same benefits it will have to the Midlands and the north."

Paul Sheerin, from industry body Scottish Engineering, said high speed rail was a good opportunity for Scotland's "strong" engineering firms to win work.

He added: "We'd all prefer if HS2 was announced as connecting Scotland directly to London."

The first phase of the £56bn railway is due to open in December 2026, with trains to travel at high speed between London and Birmingham.

The line is to be extended to Crewe by 2027, with HS2 services to Manchester and Leeds beginning six years later.

Follow BBC presenter Andrew Black's business updates each weekday morning on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme between 0600 and 0900.

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