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Rail Realities

Posted by chdot on April 18, 2007

Transform Scotland Rail Report
Just ahead of an election when politicians are promising the earth (or just ways of saving it…) it’s good to see people concerned with rational reality.

Although the new report (PDF) from TRANSform Scotland doesn’t mention bikes or cycling it’s an important document for anyone interested in ‘sustainable’ transport.

Once again politicians and interest groups are talking up the idea of a brand new high speed link between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Nothing will ever be as fast as broadband. Face to face meetings can (often) be just as effective by video link. Free WiFi on ScotRail (not just in First Class) would be a cheaper way to ‘increase productivity’ for those who ‘have to’ commute.

TRANSform says “The fantasy of a ‘bullet train’ taking twelve minutes should remain just that – the new infrastructure for ‘Maglev’ type hovertrains would be enormously expensive and very destructive of the urban fabric unless long sections were put in tunnel. Ultra-highspeed trains are highly energy-intensive, and need vast amounts of new traffic to justify their existence thereby creating the danger of increasing rather than reducing overall CO2 levels from transport. A multi-billion pound, entirely new route is simply not required to get substantial reductions in journey time from the current 48 minutes down towards 30 minutes.”

As well as proposing cost-effective moves such as re-opening Edinburgh’s South Suburban Line to passengers, (an ever running saga), TRANSform makes sensible suggestions about tourism.

“Scotland’s rural routes need a distinctive approach. Many of them depend on tourism and leisure travel, yet the trains provided are standard designs used for suburban services in the Central Belt. Unlike the situation in Switzerland, our scenic routes have no special panoramic railcars aimed at the tourist, and too many of the Highland lines are saddled with worka-day Class 158 units with poor window views, badly designed toilets and a cramped atmosphere.”

The potential for ‘low impact’ tourism in Scotland is MASSIVE. There are good Sustrans routes in many places. Local Authorities are developing Core Path Networks. The Forestry Commission is building mountain bike trails. Though in spite of the fact that taking bikes on trains is free (booking sometimes required) most are transported by car. Somehow the idea of “Green Tourism” hasn’t got much further than low energy light bulbs and whether people are willing to use the same hotel towel two days running….

2 Responses to “Rail Realities”

  1. >

    We need to think big within Scotland. Many political parties are obsessed with high speed rail to the south and widening the A9. In fact journey times to the south are not bad and you can get to Manchester faster than Inverness from Central belt (and cheaper too sometimes).

    Inside Scotland better ‘proper’ trains could make a big difference. If line to Inverness was speeded up with more direct trains then that would be a big improvement. Despite private companies running ScotRail changing at the empty station in Perth always involves a big hike. Why is this? And why are single tickets so expensive?
    How about a double track railway through the Highlands from Perth to Inverness. Why not run it from renewable electrical power? After all we’re going to have to cable it south anyway. Is this too ambitious for Scotland?

  2. Becky said

    By reducing the commuting time between Glasgow and Edinburgh to almost nothing, viable commuting reservoirs will widen well beyond the cities, to cover Ayr, Oban, Dunbar, Galashiels, Kirkcaldy, and perhaps even further. That would increase housing demand in the outlandish areas and in the current climate of insufficient development, inflate prices.

    I’m trying to see the advantage of mega-fast trains covering such a short journey. 48 minutes travelling would reduce to 30 as above, perhaps to 20 minutes or less ultimately. You still have to get to the station in time and travel from the destination, so you might save 20 minutes on your standard 90+ minute commute between home and workplace. And be paying almost certainly a higher fare to do so.

    I agree with David on northern journeys. Having examined in exhaustive detail the point-to-point distances in Scotland, the terrain and the time taken, it’s ridiculous how slow the trains can be. Is it any wonder that people drive?

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