A sleekit approach to our railways

The SNP Government just doesn’t get railways, as their recent cuts package reveals, writes JOHN RUDDY


I’ve blogged here before about how the SNP don’t seem to get railways. The events of the summer have only proved my point. They’ve shown they’re not interested in the benefits of rail electrification (unlike the Tories in Westminster, who, while being late converts are pressing ahead) – and even their cost cutting will result in fewer benefits for not just the central belt, but further afield too.

To refresh your memories: the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) was first announced back in 2006 by the Labour/Lib Dem Scottish Executive as a massive electrification project for the central belt – and as a stepping stone for taking it further. As it developed, it was to be funded by Network Rail borrowing against its regulatory asset base, at very low interest rates (effectively government backed loans), which were to be repaid over 30 years.  The annual cost to the Scottish Government would therefore be relatively low, and allow the work to go ahead without affecting the Government’s capital budget.

Back in May, the Scottish Government commissioned a report by an external consultant – whose terms of reference were kept deliberately obscure. It seems these consultants didn’t even consult with Network Rail (who were to do the work on EGIP) or ScotRail (who were to run the trains).  The report (which despite being used to make the decision at the start of July), is still in draft and can’t be released to the public. The first that even senior directors at either organisation saw it was just days before the announcement. The rumour is that the report said while things could be cut, this would reduce the benefits – especially to passengers from Dunblane and Stirling.

However, the press release from Transport Scotland managed to gloss over the cutbacks, and in typical SNP Panglossian style, claimed that this was an improvement, despite there being no increase in frequency – indeed there may be further delays as electric trains have to compete with slower diesel trains on routes not being wired up.

The list of items dropped is actually jaw-dropping: electrification to Stirling/Dunblane/Alloa; journey time improvements to Stirling/Dunblane/Alloa (10 minutes); electrification of Polmont-Greenhill via Falkirk Grahamston; Garngad Chord; Greenhill grade separated junction; planned half-hourly service to Bishopriggs, Lenzie and Croy; electrification to Grangemouth; Dalmeny Chord; electrification of Edinburgh-Winchburgh via Dalmeny; signalling improvements to Haymarket-Dalmeny; Glasgow services to Edinburgh airport via Googar; Fife services to West of Scotland via Googar; Winchburgh grade separated junction; and of course the planned six trains an hour between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Apparently, these projects are not being cut, they are merely being “phased” to be implemented as part of High Speed Rail coming to Scotland. Or 2035, whichever is later. Maybe they read my previous post and wanted to ensure there was future projects to be completed at a later date, but simply couldn’t think up any of their own?

It really takes something to unite unions, the CBI, councils, passenger groups, transport campaigners as well as the official opposition parties against you. And rather than take some responsibility and come clean, the response at the moment is to deny any cuts at all.

I think Iain McMillan, the CBI director, said it best. He called it sleekit.

Originally from Devon, John Ruddy now lives in Angus. He was an agent for Scottish Labour at the Holyrood election and is a Unison shop steward. Follow John on Twitter at @jruddy99

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8 thoughts on “A sleekit approach to our railways

  1. Aye John Ruddy you forgot to mention a few things as usual:

    Transport Scotland web site – 4th July.
    The EGIP is the next phase in electrifying Scottish rail network which will result in –
    -longer electric trains.
    -improved reliability.
    -increased capacity on Edinburgh / Falkirk High / Glasgow Queen street line.

    The revamped EGIP plans will see savings of over (£300) million after minsters updated the original project based on changes to the network and new opportinuities to transform Queen Street.

    You also forgot to mention the (£5 billion) package of funds and investment for Scotlands rail for the future.

    You also forgot to mention that Councillor Gordon Matheson (labour) leader of Glasgow City Council was with Transport minster Keith Brown when he announced the revamped EGIP plans, and along with Transport Convener Lesley Hinds of Edinburgh Council welcomed the news of the new EGIP.

    And perhaps I should mention Nigel Wunsch, Head of Strategy and Planning for Network Rail in Scotland who said ” Network rail welcomes the Scottish Governments commitment to delivering EGIP and we look forward to continuing to work with them and other partners to deliver this project to improve the rail network for the people of Scotland”.

    All this information is in the Transport Scotland web site and is freely available, plus with this subject it helps if you work for Network rail as well.

    I would appreciate it if this was not moderated off. thank you.

    1. Did you not see the list of things that are not going to be in EGIP? In 2006 we had a project which would deliver benefits all over the central belt and beyond – now we have a limited package of improvements.

      Are you not concerned about what has been left out? And the underhand way it has been done? Since Network Rail were only consulted about the changes a couple of days before the announcement, they were probably shell-shocked.

  2. Just like the Labour Party don’t get trams !! I don’t even need to prove my point. Trains/trams – we know which stands to be the biggest disaster.

    1. Actually, I think the problem with the Edinburgh Tram scheme has been down to poor management and a lack of control.

      Neither of which you can lay at Labour’s door – seeing as they wernt the ones in charge when construction started.

      1. Dream on John, there is no way you can avoid labours massive involvement with the tram disaster in Edinburgh, and that includes your partners in crime the con-libdem’s you are all guilty as hell.

        1. Its easy to make sweeping statements – less easy to back them up with facts.

          Labour left office in 2007 without a single sod having been cut on the Edinburgh Trams. There was plenty of opportunity for the SNP to have changed things – brought in new managers – written decent contracts, those sort of things.

          They decided to do nothing, because they were throwing a strop about being forced to support something they had previously supported but had dropped in a desperate attempt to win a few votes.

  3. Hi John,

    Just an observation, life in the SG is constrained by the funding arrangements and looming cuts. So as people cannot eat railway lines nor burn concrete sleepers for warmth, then reallocating funds towards minimising the hit that the poorest in our society would be required to bare through no fault of their own, is what I see as a very laudable objective.
    It is what I personally would expect any SG of any colour to actively pursue in these circumstances. Maybe it is the presentation of these actions that is eluding us all.

    While Westminster consumes the natural resources of us all in the manner of revenue expenditure, then the possibility of greater investment in infrastructure in Scotland is very remote indeed. Especially when compared to our Nordic cousins. Unless things change after 2014, life here is going to get pretty gruesome for the less fortunate in Scotland.

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