Deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon today said the administration wanted to proceed with plans to complete the link between Scotland’s two biggest cities by 2024 – two years before the UK government’s High Speed Two (HS2) line between London and Birmingham is scheduled to open.
She said the government wants the line, with 140mph trains, to eventually be connected to the high speed network planned for England.
If built, Sturgeon said, the new line would halve journey times between Glasgow and Edinburgh from just under an hour to under 30 minutes.
Ms Sturgeon said: "The Scottish government is happy and proud to take the first steps to ensure Scotland has a high speed connection bringing us into line with the most forward-thinking transport systems in the world.
"We now know that within just 12 years, we could build a line which will see journey times between our two major cities cut to less than half an hour. That will benefit our businesses, our jobs market and also our tourism industry.
"The Scottish government will now enter into talks with our partners in both cities and the rail industry to see how we can work together to see this vision realised – a Glasgow-Edinburgh high speed line which can connect to the network from England."
Sturgeon said that government agency Transport Scotland had explored the proposals, following a report into the benefits of high speed rail for the country published last year, called Fast Track Scotland (FTS).
A Transport for Scotland spokeswoman said there had been no decision yet on how the project would be funded or any calculations of cost.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) administration has been lobbying the UK government for a firm commitment to extend HS2 to north of the border.
So far, the Department for Transport has only expressed support to build HS2 from London to Birmingham by 2026 and then to Manchester and Leeds by 2033.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told the Tory Party conference in October that he would like to see the line eventually reach Scotland and has agreed to discussions with his Scottish counterpart Keith Brown on progressing the issue.
Sturgeon added: "We will not wait for Westminster to bring high speed rail to us. We have already made moves towards seeing a high speed line in Scotland and the evidence is now in place that this is feasible long before the HS2 proposals."