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Rail investment needed to again provide competitive journey times

Published 07 May 2020 by Transform Scotland

The A9 is being widened to four lanes while most of the parallel Highland Main Line is still Victorian-era single-track.

We have today published our proposal for a systemic enhancement to the inter-city rail infrastructure north of the Central Belt so that rail can again provide competitive journey times between Scotland’s cities. This call is made as part of Transform’s response to the Scottish Government consultation on the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

Transform Scotland rail spokesperson Paul Tetlaw said:

“Normal activities will eventually return after the current health crisis albeit many are describing that as a ‘new normal’. In transport terms a ‘new normal’ should be one that embraces sustainable transport modes as the overriding priority area for investment. Pressing concerns will remain around climate change, congestion, obesity and poor air quality and the associated health risks – action on these fronts will be ever more required.

“The Scottish rail network escaped some of the most brutal aspects of the Beeching era closures and Scotland’s seven cities remained connected by rail. However the network north of the Central Belt has been starved of investment which instead has been pumped into road building. The result of that policy is that many journeys between the cities are quicker by car than by train – despite the statement in NPF3 that ‘We want to make rail travel quicker than by car, and to complete the electrification of the railway lines between the cities’.

“In our response we set out a timetable for journey time improvements and electrification of the routes between the cities with particular emphasis on the creation of a section of new line linking Edinburgh and Perth with an associated national inter-city rail hub at Perth.”

Our proposal to create an inter-city rail infrastructure north of the Central Belt that rail can again provide competitive journey times between Scotland’s cities includes:

  1. Electrification of the routes from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen and Inverness.
  2. Doubling-tracking the lines to Aberdeen & to Inverness. (Funding is currently being found to dual the parallel roads, but these routes still retain single-track, in particular on the Highland Main Line.)
  3. Construction of a new direct rail line from Inverkeithing via Kinross to Perth.
  4. Development of a national inter-city interchange at Perth Station.