EXTENSIVE proposals to expand Scotland's rail network with the creation of 51 new stations have emerged as Scots were found to be the slowest in the UK to return to trains as Covid restrictions eased.

Influential think tank Railfuture Scotland has mapped out the list of 51 stations to be opened or re-opened in a bid to attract the public back on trains as Covid restrictions are lifted and as the nation shifts away from carbon-emitting cars.

Scotland has set itself a tough 2045 net zero target - and public transport has to be prepared as replacing petrol and diesel cars car journeys with low emission trains and buses alongside electric vehicles, walking and cycling are seen as a way forward to cut greenhouse gases.

The stations to be opened or re-opened lie on existing or government proposed rail lines and have been assessed to provide the greatest immediate benefits.

The Herald:

They say most can be served by existing train services and would make up for decades of underinvestment.

Office of Rail and Road figures show that in the last three months of last year, ScotRail recorded 14.2m passengers journeys, just 52.8% of the pre-pandemic numbers, and the smallest rebound of 20 train operators. London North Eastern Railway topped the list with 83.6% of its pre-pandemic numbers, followed be East Midlands Railway (77.3%) and TfL Rail (74.7%).

Over the period eleven franchised operators ran less than 90% of the train distances it was covering pre-pandemic. One was ScotRail, which managed 80.9%, while TfL Rail, which was the best performer, managed nearly two-and-a-half times its original distance.

And of 11 UK regions, Scotland saw the steepest train passenger journey decline in 2020/21, with just 15.6% of that seen before the pandemic hit. The south west of England topped the list with 23.3%.

Top of the new list with an anticipated minimum annual usage of 2m passengers, is the reopening of the Glasgow Cross railway station.

Once a famous city-centre landmark with its striking arched windows and domed roof, it was shut down in October 1964 although the former station building remained unused for many years afterwards.

The Herald:

The station was part of proposals for re-opening as part of Crossrail Glasgow plans published back in 2005.

When the Argyle Line opened in 1979, the station was never reopened and was replaced by the new Argyle Street station.

That would require the resurrection of the mothballed Crossrail Glasgow scheme – the long-proposed £200m development that would link rail networks to the north and south of the city and connect Glasgow’s Central and Queen Street stations.

That appears to have been superceded by for a new metro system, which aims to better connect the 1.5 million people living in the Glasgow region, and hasabeen included in the Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), which sets out transport investment priorities for the next two decades.

Last month when transport minister Jenny Gilruth was questioned about the lack of information regarding costs and a timeline, she confirmed that the new metro could cost as much as £16 billion and take 35 years to complete.

The blueprint involves a new public transport system running from Paisley Gilmour Street train station, through Glasgow Airport and on to Renfrew, Braehead and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) before reaching the city centre.

There is no timescale yet and no date for the first phase connecting Glasgow Airport to Paisley Gilmour Street.

Jane Ann Liston, secretary of Railfuture Scotland said: "These stations are considered necessary to provide an attractive and environmentally-friendly alternative to road vehicles. Each of the locations has some specific feature as to why it needs a station, such as an attraction which brings in many people, a major employer or simply a large number of residents who need to travel. These stations would open up more of the country to non-road travel".

The updated list comes years after it's first blueprint. Since then seven recommended by the think tank have been or are being re-opened: Leven, Inverness Airport, Cameron Bridge, Robroyston, Kintore, East Linton and Reston."

"The original justifications for the stations on the list still stand but to them must now be added the imperativeness of attracting people back to trains in the wake of the pandemic, as the message that public transport is not safe still lingers in the public consciousness with the result that passenger numbers are still well below what they were prior to March 2020."

The Herald:

Second on the priority list is a new Grangemouth station, with the pressure group estimating it would be used by 360,000 people a year.

Next comes a station for West Lothian’s Winchburgh, needed because of plans for 3450 new homes.

A station at Edinburgh’s Abbeyhill would serve the Scottish Parliament and tourist destinations including Holyrood Palace.

And it believes there is a case for stations at Culloden and Bannockburn, which would serve the historic battlefield sites plus residential areas of 8,000.

New stations to the list include on the Alloa-Dunfermline line: Cairneyhill, Clackmannan, Kincardine, Valleyfield and  Culross.
On the Edinburgh South Sub the Railfuture have added Morningside, Gorgie, Cameron Toll, Newington and The Jewel.

Other new proposed new stations include:Belmont (Ayrshire), Inveralmond, Abernethy (Perthshire), Kirkliston (West Lothian), Newburgh (Fife) and  Abington (Lanarkshire).