Dominic Hinde is a Scottish Green Party Activist and a doctoral research student at the University of Edinburgh investigating the social capital of environment from a Scandinavian perspective. He is also Convenor of the Edinburgh Young Greens and a freelance journalist writing about the Nordic countries.

As you may have noticed, the respective governments in Edinburgh and London are not the best of friends. What with the SNP pushing the paradox of a simultaneously low and high carbon economy as magic bullet for our problems and the Westminster government struggling to understand how the economy works in the first place, the time might seem wrong for a sound piece of mutual common sense investment. Yet the royal wedding which would unite the two warring kingdoms is right under their noses – high speed rail.

Nothing says unity like a railway line, just look at China which is building high speed rail lines faster than anyone ever has before. If you glance through European Union literature on the continent’s economic infrastructure high speed trains are everywhere. Everywhere except Britain that is.

There is a pressing need to expand Britain’s general rail network already. Successive governments have boasted about how more people now use rail than at any time since the Second World War, which sounds inspiring until you realise that Britain’s population then was less than half of what it is today. Rail fares are extortionate for anybody who does not have the prescience to book a journey six months in advance, and many people choose to fly on the core routes from Glasgow and Edinburgh to any one of London’s five major aiports (soon to be six with the expansion of Southend) because of both price constraints and the fact that cheaper planes don’t fly more slowly.

We’ve been here before of course: in the early eighties when Britain was on the cusp of deploying one of the world’s most advanced passenger trains, the creatively named Advanced Passenger Train (APT), into service between Glasgow and London. It had the potential to reduce journey times to a very respectable four hours but the carpet was pulled from under the feet of British Rail by the Thatcher government; politicians were put off by bad publicity and the up front cost in an era where public infrastructure was seen as an attack on the rights of the individual and the taxpayer.

If you want to see what high speed Britain may have looked like take a trip to Crewe. The original APT has for the past twenty years sat on a disconnected piece of track at a railway museum and is available for children’s parties at very reasonable prices.

If the SNP are serious about kick starting the Scottish economy and the Westminster government want to keep hold of Scotland then high speed rail would be a sound economic and environmental investment. Even countries with far lower population densities such as Sweden and Spain are investing heavily in high speed rail. Earlier this year the Swedes for example showed some impressive vision and a more expansive grasp of economics by building a high speed line to connect the populous middle of the country with the coastal cities in the Bothnian gulf which were in dire need of infrastructure improvements.

The last few years have also seen the birth of ‘very high speed rail’, which surprisingly enough is a recognised technical term. The world record for conventional trains is 357 miles per hour, set last year by a specially adapted French TGV train. At that speed London to Edinburgh would take less than two hours centre to centre. Even at the average commercial speed of around 186 miles per hour it would be possible to make a journey from Edinburgh to Brussels in under five hours.

Neither is this experimental technology. The handling of the UK’s plans for high speed rail has so far been carried out with an air of apprehension over this great leap into the unknown. Just as a reminder of how ridiculous this reluctance to try something new is, the first high speed railway in the world, Japan’s Tokaido Shinkansen line, was built in 1964. Even the US. which has an almost willfull aversion to rail travel, is pumping money into high speed infrastructure. At the same time all Britain looks set to get is a connection between London and the far flung shores of Birmingham.

If the government in London is serious about making the UK work then these kind of infrastructure projects are desperately needed. With the right backing they can be energy smart, carbon efficient and accessible to the majority of the population. They could also do wonders for Scotland’s ability to interact economically with the European mainland and perhaps even more so with the huge cities of Northern England.

In eight to ten years time I want to be sipping a cappucino as I speed past Sheffield at two hundred miles an hour on my way to Paris. If the current lack of ambition in rail planning continues however it’ll more likely be a lukewarm cup of Nescafe on the way to Prestwick.