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Response on the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee Inquiry into High Speed Rail

The responses below are those of members of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport(UK) Scottish Policy Group who have contributed to the discussion on The Scottish Government Consultation on the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee Inquiry into High Speed Rail

Under our President Richard Brown of Eurostar, CILT as the country's leading organisation for transport and logistics professionals is committed to raising the profile of climate change on the transport agenda. We see rail as offering in principle the best prospects for promoting development of long-distance passenger and freight transport so as to deliver an economy and society that are both sustainable and inclusive.

We therefore view the development of a high-speed network alongside the existing West and/or East Coast Main Lines from Scotland to South-East England as key to reducing our dependency on carbon-intensive short-haul aviation, while releasing slots for the long-haul flights on which this island's place in the global economy relies. We accordingly believe that Heathrow should be in the high-speed network so as to ensure that the need for short haul flights for those travelling onward from there are minimised. We want the capacity thus thrown up on existing routes to be used for the development of railfreight and also of regional passenger services, benefiting the areas either side of the Border that at present are poorly-served due to the preponderance of long-distance traffic.

We welcome next year's completion of West Coast Route Modernisation as marking a step-change in the development of Anglo-Scottish rail travel and recognise the desirability that further development should take the form of off-line enhancement rather than risking any repetition of the intrusive engineering works that over the last decade have proved so disruptive particularly to weekend rail travel. Mindful of the potential difficulties of land acquisition, we are however concerned that rail must not be allowed to rest on its laurels and believe that the industry should receive every encouragement to take forward further incremental improvements including a Stafford cut-off and the restoration of the Carlisle freight by-pass lines so as to avoid the risk of blight while a high-speed network is in gestation.

For the sakes of maximum connectivity and energy conservation, we favour conventional rail engineering - as exemplified by the High Speed One link with the Channel Tunnel - over maglev and other unproven technology that cannot be fully integrated with existing networks. Maglev would entail either terminating on the outskirts (eg at airports) or else hugely expensive new alignments to penetrate city centres, not only in Glasgow and Edinburgh but also in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London. As to type of train, we commend to the Committee's attention for both performance and passenger comfort the latest designs used in countries such as Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. High speed is not of course the only factor that is important in persuading passengers to use rail rather than air - one factor that has increased in importance over the years is the evidence that people value the ability to spend time productively whilst travelling, which in turn suggests the importance of the travelling environment.

The emerging world financial order gives the British Government an opportunity to use the leverage of its stake in the banks to expect that they should invest in transport infrastructure, thus helping lead the economy out of recession, and the proposed Scottish Futures Trust which is being charged with delivering the partial reopening of the Waverley Line ought also to have a role ensuring that a high-speed network becomes cross-Border instead of terminating in the North of England. So as to maximise synergy with existing operations, we believe that at the Scottish end a high-speed network should grow out of Scottish Ministers' plans to improve by 2016 rail links between Edinburgh and Glasgow and to electrify the domestic network to Aberdeen and Inverness. Car-parking clearly needs to be considered for a significant segment of potential customers, whether it is provided at existing hubs, at suburban stations offering access to hubs, at parkway stations or at a mixture of these but access by more sustainable modes including bus, taxi, walking and cycling must also be promoted - and in order to prevent unnecessary generation of road traffic, we consider that the temptation to build parkway stations on the new network may have to be resisted in favour of linkage with existing hubs such as Motherwell.

Having declared our enthusiasm in principle, in the current financial situation we must end on a cautionary note. The perceived cost of long-distance rail travel has risen significantly in recent years and while the rail industry claims to offer really attractive deals if booked in advance, these seem at least until now to be less easily accessed than are those by plane. High-speed rail services will need to be more competitive than those on offer today if they are to be used to capacity. As well as carbon comparisons between the two modes, the fares issue must also be addressed since at the end of the day and especially in the circumstances of the credit crunch, businesses and individuals are bound to address their travel options on a cost basis. However there should also be encouragement for employers to recognise that the real cost of travel ought to include the employees' travelling time - and whether or not this is productive time.

 

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