Alastair Dalton, The Scotsman, 26 June 2009
Scotland should create a "Grand Central" rail-air hub at Edinburgh Airport to form the heart of a national high-speed rail network, a think tank has proposed.
The ambitious £25 billion scheme would enable passengers to reach the new super-airport from Edinburgh city centre in five minutes and Inverness in just over an hour, according to Reform Scotland.
In a report to be published today, the group called for the airport to be renamed "Grand Central" and surrounded by a ring road. The proposed adjacent railway station – which would be Scotland\’s largest – would have the same name.
The plans come despite UK ministers previously rejecting plans for one main Central Belt airport, while the SNP scrapped plans to re-route several rail lines through Edinburgh Airport when it came to power.
Reform Scotland admitted it did not have detailed research about the environmental impact of the scheme, despite Scotland having the world\’s most ambitious emissions targets.
The proposals include high-speed lines between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, and complete dualling of the A9 Perth-Inverness and A96 Aberdeen-Inverness roads.
Reform Scotland has left funding options for a future report, but it said Scotland-wide road tolls should be considered for future improvements.
The group described its proposals as a "vision of a co-ordinated, modern and highly efficient travel network which Scotland has lacked through a persistent piecemeal approach".
Labour rubbished the plans as unaffordable, but the Liberal Democrats said they showed the Edinburgh airport rail link should not have been ditched.
Tom Harris, the Glasgow South Labour MP, said: "This grandiose scheme is potentially a distraction from getting a high-speed link between Scotland and London."
But Alison McInnes, the Lib Dems\’ transport spokeswoman, said: "This report underlines the decision not to follow through on the Edinburgh airport rail link may have been one of the most short-sighted decisions in Scotland\’s transport history."
BAA, which runs Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, said the UK government had "firmly ruled out creating one Central Belt airport and it is a distraction to try and reopen these old outdated arguments".