In 2008 the First Minister Alex Salmond sensibly said that “railways must at least compete with roads”.
Unfortunately, while there are a number of major initiatives to improve the railways’ competitive position in the Central Belt, no similar ambition is being shown for routes to the north of Scotland.
Current Inverness to Edinburgh/Glasgow- and Perth to Edinburgh trains are slower than road travel – and the rail route from Perth to Edinburgh is slower than it was 100 years ago. Between Aberdeen and Edinburgh/Glasgow, trains have no speed advantage over road.
The Scottish Government is planning a range of modest improvements to rail services to and from Aberdeen and Inverness – but the timescale for implementation stretches as far away as 2030. Yet road expenditure of no less than £3bn on A9 dualling by 2025 and another £3bn on A96 dualling by 2030 is now proposed. These massive public investments would of course generate increased car and lorry traffic, and undermine rail’s ability to compete – unless train journey times are dramatically improved.
There is clearly a ‘project deficit’ for railways north of the Central Belt. We see lots of Government ambition for roads, but where’s the next ‘big idea’ for rail?
Our ‘Inter-City Express’ programme fills that gap, and supports the Scottish Government’s ‘Agenda for Cities’ by bringing all Scotland’s cities closer together, with a safe, civilised and sustainable mode of transport. The Agenda stresses the importance of a ‘Connected City’, and our proposals benefit all seven cities in the Scottish Cities Alliance — Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling.
Here we set out the case for a transformation of rail transport north of the Central Belt, for passengers and freight alike, under five key headings: