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Railwatch 074 - December 1997


By David Hansen

Service Improvements Scotrail has announced improvements to services in the east of Scotland. From May 1998 the Bathgate service is to be doubled in frequency to half-hourly, which is much needed.

At the same time an hourly service from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy and Markinch is to be started. From October 1998 an hourly service from Edinburgh to Cowdenbeath is to be run.

Fife Circle trains and hourly trains to Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy. Scotrail have given a three-year commitment to these services. This plan is different to franchise requirements, which called for a half-hourly Fife Circle service by 1999. ORR have approved these changes, which RDS Scotland welcome as an improvement on the franchise which will happen a year earlier than the franchise required, and is more in line with the business on offer. The Kirkcaldy train could form the basis of a service to Leven in the future.

Also in the east, Scotrail is talking about improving services around Aberdeen. This is to be by extending some trains to the other side of Aberdeen, for example Edinburgh to Dyce, rather than most trains stopping in Aberdeen. This is an excellent idea, although eventually a dedicated suburban service would be ideal. We are very pleased to see a new lobby group, the Stonehaven Mearns Railway Group, has been set up to campaign for better local services.

New trains Scotrail are currently hopeful of finding some spare Class 150s to replace slam door trains running out of Edinburgh to Fife. Tenders for new Scotrail EMUs and DMUs have been issued and ordering is expected to be in January, 1998. This is to include the four trains Fife Council have been trying to procure for some years. Tendering for refurbishment of the sleeper vehicles is also taking place. In 1998 Scotrail hope to refurbish the trains on the Edinburgh-Glasgow service.

Dalgety Bay Readers will be aware of the convoluted history of this project; the first station built in Scotland since rail privatisation and local government reorganisation. The problems encountered might even be worthy of a book. Work is now proceeding rapidly on the rail parts of this station and it will, hopefully, be open in the spring.

Strathclyde plans In the west and north things are quiet at the moment, except for some plans by SPT. The big one is a tunnel from Glasgow Queen Street to Glasgow Central. This would start off at a new Cowlairs International station, then proceed as a tunnel under the existing tunnel to Queen Street. Avoiding the Underground, low-level railway tunnels, the Clyde, and anything else underground, the route would then rise on a dramatic gradient to emerge south of the Clyde. The plan is big and may, in time, be worthwhile. However, a first step should be to implement the Glasgow Crossrail scheme which could be done quickly and would have immediate benefits by linking the north and south suburban services. A short tunnel from Queen Street to the Buchanan Street tunnel, allowing the Cumbernauld service to be speeded up and extended to Stirling, would be a better tunnel to build first.

Glasgow Airport It seems that the need to make any link to the airport accessible for trains has been accepted. However, there seems to be little progress on the link itself.

Railtrack is proceeding slowly on a long-term plan to rebuild Edinburgh Waverley as a shopping centre. This has received a mixed reaction, but one thing is agreed by all, is that nobody wants another Birmingham New Street. Since then a number of conversions have been done, for example Broadgate in London, none of which are as awful as Birmingham New Street.

Consultation RDS Scotland is being overwhelmed with consultation fever. In recent months we have outlined Scottish perspectives on a strategic rail authority and the government's transport ideas. We have also provided evidence on the Scottish Parliament and Lord Provost's Commission on Sustainable Development for the City of Edinburgh. We are also making contact with groups concerned with women and the elderly, who are users of trains but, women especially, are not that well represented on RDS Scotland.

Meeting people In October we had a very useful meeting with Alastair MacPherson, the new director of Scotrail. We discussed a number of ideas, not just about more trains. In order to attract more passengers what is often needed is a more understandable service. Scotrail is keen to do more than just provide the franchise and have some very challenging financial targets to meet. Our view is that facilities for passengers must be increased, by making it easier for those with luggage, shopping, children and cycles to use the trains. We hope to meet Scotrail regularly in the future.

Transform Scotland RDS Scotland are founder members of TRANSform Scotland, the Scottish Transport 2000, with a board member to ensure rail interests are well represented. Other board members include personnel from Scotrail, Railtrack, EWS, as well as campaigning groups, local authorities and the bus industry. This is an exciting development as TRANSform will employ people to commission research, attend conferences and provide quick rebuttal to the roads lobby. By the time you read this the press launch will have taken place in Bathgate, featuring many types of sustainable transport. Scotland is about 10 years behind England in terms of sustainable transport, partly due to a lack of effective lobbying. We hope TRANSform will rectify this.

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