A VISION of a high-speed rail link through East Lothian, which could also boost local rail services, has been unveiled by Transport Scotland.

Journey times from Edinburgh to London could be cut to as little as three hours, with trains travelling at 250mph.

The potential scheme was outlined by Transport Scotland at a meeting of the East Lothian Rail Forum in Haddington last week.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, the depute leader of East Lothian Council, attended and said: “At the Rail Forum, we received a presentation from Transport Scotland on the possibility of HS2 coming from Newcastle to Edinburgh.

“This is going to be provided by alterations at Newcastle Station and a new track from Newcastle to Edinburgh.

“If this investment is made it would enable trains to travel at 250mph and do Edinburgh to London in three hours.”

The proposals would have a knock-on effect in East Lothian, with the possibility of changes being made to the East Coast Main Line to accommodate the faster trains.

Last week, Mr Hampshire added: “The train would possibly change from the new HS2 line onto the existing East Coast Main Line possibly around the Blindwells site and travel into Waverley.

“To compensate for the additional traffic, they are proposing to increase the track along this section to four lines. Transport Scotland has been working with the DTI and they have agreed the principle of this proposal; however this is just the first step in a complex proposal.”

More tracks could lead to more frequent local services in East Lothian.

The current HS2 had been proposed to reach Newcastle by 2033 and Mr Hampshire said that if the extension to Edinburgh was taken forward it would “follow on after that”.

However, on Tuesday it was announced that the first phase of the HS2 high-speed railway between London and Birmingham had been delayed by up to five years.

That section of line was due to open in 2026 but it will now be sometime before 2031.

The second phase of the line – between Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds – is now delayed to between 2035-2040.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “We note the UK Secretary of State for Transport’s announcement that the introduction of High Speed Rail is likely to be delayed.  

"However it does not change the reality of constrained capacity on the East Coast Main Line and the need to address that situation in the coming years.

"As presented at the East Lothian Rail Forum, our technical studies have confirmed that it would be feasible to construct a high speed route section between the outskirts of Newcastle and Edinburgh that would provide a step change in capacity of the northern part of the East Coast Main Line and unlock the ability to increase local rail services as well as improve connectivity.

“This improved route section alone could reduce the journey time by more than half between Newcastle and Edinburgh and, when high speed rail is built to Leeds, reduce the journey time between London and Edinburgh to meet the UK and Scottish Governments’ joint target of three hours.

"We are committed to producing a business case for Scottish and UK Ministers to consider next year.”

Iain Gray, East Lothian MSP, said: “Clearly, the entire HS2 project is now subject to a review so this is all very speculative.

"However, I think there has always been a strong case for extending it all the way to Edinburgh in order to ensure Scotland also benefits from this new infrastructure.

“This would also allow the potential for exploring further improvements in local services in the longer term, something I have long campaigned for.”