Feasibility studies are to be carried out into options to reduce cross-border train journey times, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The studies mark the next phase in plans to eventually cut the journey time between Scotland’s central belt and London to three hours.
Last year, the UK and Scottish governments jointly commissioned work to identify options for improvement on the east and west coast rail corridors.
A short list of options has been drawn up, and analysis will now be commissioned to understand cost, benefits, environmental impacts and technical considerations for work in Scotland.
The studies will focus on the east coast line south of Dunbar towards Newcastle and on the west coast line between Glasgow and Carstairs.
This feasibility study will also consider the potential for new cross-border stations within the Eurocentral business park and on the existing rail network near Livingston.
Addressing business leaders in Newcastle, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am determined for us to take the necessary steps to secure Scotland’s future and improve our connectivity with England.
“This work will provide us with the knowledge to make informed investments in the next 10 years and move us towards our goal of a three-hour journey time to London and substantially reduced journey times to the cities in between.
“It is fitting that I am able to make this announcement while speaking to the North East England Chambers of Commerce. This work could have significant benefits for people and businesses on both sides of the border.
“For example, it is expected that these studies will confirm we will be able to reduce the journey time between Edinburgh and Newcastle by a third, down to only one hour, and also reduce journey times between Glasgow and Edinburgh and Carlisle.
“This will further enhance the opportunities for trade and leisure travel between these great cities, as well as the surrounding area.”
Mark Bevan, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said: “Improving transport connectivity is of huge significance to Scotland’s economy and future growth. With this in mind we welcome major steps to reduce journey times, like those announced today by the First Minister.
“Businesses north of the border rely heavily on their ability to connect with the north of England, London and the rest of the UK, so any measures which significantly reduce rail travel time will bring real benefits.”