A NEW rail tunnel under the Firth of Forth is at the heart of a £22 billion "rail revolution" proposed by the Scottish Greens.

The party said its 20-year Rail for All programme should form a central part of Scotland's recovery from the coronavirus crisis, doubling the resources pumped into rail.

It argued the new tunnel would transform journeys and help relieve the current "bottleneck" affecting services on the east coast.

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Scottish Green transport spokesman John Finnie MSP commissioned a report from Deltix Transport Consulting, run by rail expert David Spaven.

It suggested "two nine-mile, single-bore rail tunnels" could be driven under the Firth of Forth from Abbeyhill in Edinburgh to the Seafield area in Fife, between Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy, passing under Leith. The scheme would connect to the east end of Waverley station.

HeraldScotland: Pic: Scottish Greens briefing paperPic: Scottish Greens briefing paper

The report estimated this would cost between £4bn and £6bn, including a new underground station in Leith.

“It should be noted that there has been a long history of boring under the Forth for coal mining, and railway tunnels much longer than this have become relatively common in mainland Europe," it said.

The Greens said the plan would reduce journey times between Edinburgh and east Fife, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Inverness by 25 minutes and bring Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes, Levenmouth, north and east Fife, Perth and Dundee to within an hour of central Edinburgh.

David Prescott, who co-wrote the Deltix report, said: “At a stroke the Forth Tunnel can transform the geography of Scotland, just as the Forth Bridge did 130 years ago and the Forth Road Bridge nearly 60 years ago.

"It would substantially cut the distance between Edinburgh and east Fife, Dundee, Aberdeen Perth and Inverness, whilst also putting Leith at the heart of the Scottish rail network.

"The Forth Tunnel would give this generation of Scottish engineers the opportunity to continue the strong traditions of their illustrious predecessors – creating transformational infrastructure for the nation.”

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Elsewhere, the Greens' wider vision, informed by the Deltix report, would see the construction of a new overground terminal station beside the St Enoch Centre in Glasgow.

It also proposes a publicly owned rail operator, "re-integrating ScotRail and Network Rail Scotland".

And it calls for full electrification of Scotland's inter-city network by 2030, rather than 2035, to allow the current rolling-stock to be replaced with modern high-performance electric trains.

Meanwhile, it says tram-trains, which run on streets and on traditional rails, could be deployed in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

The Greens want to ensure every town with a population of more than 5,000 is connected to the rail network, where realistically possible.

Their proposals would also involve upgrading the Highland Main Line, the Far North Line, the West Highland Line and the Ayr to Stranraer line, reopening the Dunfermline to Alloa route and opening new stations across the country.

Outdated rural rolling stock would be replaced with electric battery-powered trains. A replacement Tay Bridge is also included in costings.

Mr Finnie said: "The Scottish Greens are proposing the biggest rail investment programme Scotland has ever seen.

"Our fully-costed £22bn plan would transform Scotland’s railway, building a modern, zero-carbon network that is affordable and accessible to all."

He added: "Scotland’s rail network has suffered from long term systemic under investment, with governments of all stripes favouring roads."

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The Greens said £22bn is "approximately double current Scottish Government plans for this time period, and much of it could be funded by redirecting capital expenditure on expanding the road network".

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it has invested more than £9bn in railways since 2007.

She added: "Some of the suggested interventions are already being considered by the Scottish Government.

"Aspirational projects, such as the Firth of Forth tunnel proposal by the Green Party, would be subject to the same scrutiny from the earliest stages to ensure they merited any serious consideration.

“We have stated for some time now that the franchising model is no longer fit for purpose and an integrated, public sector controlled railway, fully accountable to Scottish ministers and Parliament will best serve Scotland’s economy and its communities. 

"Repeated calls on UK ministers to give Scotland the powers needed to secure the best future for Scotland’s railway network, and to remove the absurdities and anomalies of the current system, have been denied."