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Labour Party review for Anglo-Scottish travel

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The UK is gearing up for an election, and a potential change in government. The socialist Labour Party, widely tipped to take power, is preparing to implement its own policies – including public transport. The party has begun a comprehensive Rail and Urban Transport Review to reshape the nation’s transport landscape. A key focus is a push to encourage more individuals to choose rail for their Anglo-Scottish journeys.

Particular emphasis has been on the critical route between Edinburgh and London, which attracts significant air travel. The call to prioritise rail travel comes at a time when sustainable transportation is high on the agenda. The Labour Party, currently in opposition but widely anticipated to take power in the upcoming general election, has made a point of a greener, more efficient future, a keynote – despite ditching an expensive policy commitment earlier this month.

Rail and Urban Transport Review

The Labour Party may have abandoned their expensive environmental proposals, but that has not derailed their Rail and Urban Transport Review. The Review has solicited responses from various stakeholders across the UK. One significant submission has come from Transform Scotland, the national alliance for sustainable transport based in Edinburgh. The environmentally aware lobby organisation includes membership from major public transport operators, local authorities, health organisations, and rail advocacy groups.

Azuma high-speed trains on East Coast Main Line, source: LNER

In their submission, Transform Scotland underscores the urgent need to shift the balance in favour of rail over air and car travel, particularly in respect of Anglo-Scottish journeys. The organisation has been actively involved in the Scottish government’s High-Speed Rail Partnership Group. It advocates for a reduction in rail journey times between Central Scotland and London to three hours.

Replace flights to meet climate change targets

The cancellation of High-Speed 2 (HS2) lines north of Birmingham has presented a significant setback, leaving the rail industry facing capacity constraints on the main Anglo-Scottish routes. Transform Scotland emphasises that overcoming these challenges is crucial. They say that faster trains are needed to encourage “air-to-rail transfer”, but also to address the increasing demand for freight and local passenger services.

Twilight cityscape of Edinburgh
A new dawn for Anglo-Scottish services if the Rail and Urban Transport Review is adopted by a new Labour Government

Transform Scotland says that there are over 100 daily flights from Central Scotland to London airports. They say the need to replace the majority of these flights with rail capacity is vital to meet climate change targets. Transform Scotland argues that such a shift will not only contribute to reducing carbon emissions but will also invigorate city centres and stimulate economic activity.

Unwritten benefits of rail development

Labour has not abandoned the concept of higher-speed trains between Scotland and London. The shadow Transport Secretary, Stephen Morgan, has confirmed that Labour would launch an independent review looking at the failures of HS2. The Party also committed to working with local leaders, mayors, businesses and unions to deliver a credible and transformative programme of transport infrastructure investment.

In the challenging journey towards net-zero emissions in the transport sector, Transform Scotland highlights the broader benefits that will arise from redirecting investments away from road-building and expanding air travel. These benefits include improved public health, social inclusion, reduced congestion, and an overall enhancement of quality of life. They refrain from saying that rail infrastructure makes for a more refreshing journey all round, but that is something already well-understood by this audience.

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