Rail consultation: Government urged to reconnect communities across Scotland
Transform Scotland, by Colin Howden
Transform Scotland has today urged the Scottish Government to investigate the reopening of former rail routes across Scotland to reconnect communities with the rest of the country.
The recommendation comes in response to Transport Scotland’s consultation on their Rail Infrastructure Strategy, which sought views on how Scotland’s rail network can be improved in coming years.
Transform Scotland has called for all former rail routes to be safeguarded until comprehensive studies have been undertaken to assess the feasibility of railway reopenings. Doing so would help to ensure future opportunities exist to develop and expand Scotland’s existing rail network.
Transform Scotland has also called for the Scottish Government to produce a table of population centres which are currently without access to rail services. Many communities across Scotland remain without access to rail services, despite a wide network of disused railways which were closed during the Beeching cuts in the 1960s. Reopening rail routes could open up huge economic and social benefits for areas across Scotland which are at present poorly connected to the rest of the country.
Paul Tetlaw, Rail Campaigner at Transform Scotland, said:
“It is essential that government takes a long-term strategic approach to the development of the railway network. The railway that we have today is largely a mixture of that developed by the early private railway companies and later dramatically reduced by the Beeching era closures.
“In many instances communities that suffered station closures have now grown substantially and new communities have grown up around existing railway lines. Expansion of the network is required to serve these communities which have grown out of all proportion in recent decades. Future planning needs to recognise the huge changes that have occurred since then and plan to create a railway fit for the 21st century.
“We suggest that all former rail routes should be protected until a survey has been undertaken to establish the condition and opportunity for re-use. These are national assets and should be viewed as such.
“At the same time a table of population centres not currently served by rail should be compiled. This would help to create a strategic approach to how and where the rail network will need to be enhanced and enlarged for both passenger and freight needs.”
“One of the many lessons to be learned from the new Borders Railway is that communities value new rail links to our cities and the benefits flow both ways. There are a number of other examples of communities which would benefit from such links, where the social benefits should form a key part of the business case. Levenmouth in Fife stands out as a very prominent example.
“It cannot be right that it is left to local campaigners to lobby for new rail services or routes – a strategic approach which combines local, regional and national needs should be adopted.”
Transform Scotland also made a number of other recommendations for rail infrastructure in Scotland:
* Rebalance transport spending priorities to ensure a modal shift to sustainable forms of transport
* Carry out a multi-modal corridor study on the A9 and A96 routes to ensure that road and rail investments are considered in a unified way
* Introduce more effective integration of public transport modes to allow true competition with the car
* Introduce more sophisticated rail performance measures which better reflect the overall passenger experience
* Fund level crossing improvements from the roads budget, as virtually all incidents at level crossings are the result of misuse by road users