Transport Minister Keith Brown's much-trumpeted "big statement" over vital improvements to Scotland's rail network reveals a thin menu of administrative changes achieved at a snail's pace, visibly padded out by re-announcing previous policy intentions already subject to deferral and delay.
This contrasts sadly with ministerial enthusiasm over commuter motorway upgradings now declared more ambitious than previously envisaged ("Rail fare discounts pledge", The Herald, June 22).
Although sensible proposals on integrated multi-modal rail/bus/ferry ticketing, better marketing and selective useful off-peak rail fares reduction (filling otherwise-empty seats) are certainly welcome, they only represent the bare minimum expected of any competent transport policy. Such shouldn't be used to disguise broken promises and the shameful deferral (until 2025) of upgrading and promised 35-minute acceleration of the main Glasgow/Edinburgh-Inverness main line – only achievable by restoration of vital double-track sections and passing loops on this primitive single-track route.
Even the flagship Edinburgh Glasgow Rail Improvement Programme (EGIP) is witnessing slippage and shrinkage through downgrading the Cumbernauld commuter line, by scrapping the previously intended Garngad Curve, imposing a 2 km Springburn detour (with associated train reversal tomfoolery) and an inferior Hyndland turnback (rather than Queen Street low level or Finnieston), all of which combine to frustrate rail's competitive credibility against car commuting.
Mr Brown similarly remains silent over the "gaping holes" still handicapping Scotland's rail network through failure to implement the planned Crossrail route through Glasgow with similar scrapping of the promised Aberdeen Crossrail project. Private funding efforts to assist the reopening of Edinburgh's suburban line as a valuable alternative to car commuting have also been snubbed by the Scottish Government. The Government's perverse sabotaging of the Glasgow Airport rail link (Garl) may yet be reversed by a new private sector-led bid, currently aiming to deliver a rail route with an improved alignment offering significant construction and operational savings, compared to the previous Garl project.
Achieving those items of unfinished business is a high-profile, and eminently legitimate, test of this Government's intention to achieve, or assist in delivering, a modernised, more accessible and competitive Scottish rail network, fit for purpose in the 21st century.
12A Dirleton Gate,
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