STRATEGIC PRIORITIES FOR SCOTLAND'S PASSENGER RAILWAY
A SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE CONSULTATION PAPER
The Friends of the Far North Line welcome the opportunity to respond to this consultation paper. We start with fundamental considerations
- If rail is to deliver its potential in developing the economy of both Scotland and its regions there is a need for:
- socio-economic-environmental assessment in planning for rail
- an effective framework for the rail industry in the UK
- restraint on the road lobby by UK Government
- provision of integrated transport hubs in city centres
- a spirit of co-operation across all stakeholders and in particular between service and infrastructure providers, and
- capital finance including targeted pump priming by Government.
RESPONSES TO THE KEY QUESTIONS
1. How would you rank the following operational priorities for developing Scotland's passenger rail services and why?
- Increased frequency of trains serving urban areas.
- Longer trains on existing urban and inter-urban services.
- Reduced journey times on lines serving regional centers and rural communities as opposed to increased frequency.
1. The first priority is reduced journey times on lines serving Regional Centres - this is not necessarily incompatible with increased frequency since past evidence shows that speed generates increased traffic. A daily average of 8,100 road vehicles, mostly carrying people in either cars or the hourly interval coaches passed Tomatin, near Slochd Summit, on the A9 in June 2000(1) If Inverness-Edinburgh rail journeys were shortened to under three hours traffic would be drawn to rail justifying new limited stop expresses whilst retaining the present pattern of stopping trains.
Both the paper in general and this question in particular fail to recognise that the interests of rural and inter-regional travelling are as different as are those between the urban and inter-regional.
In general increased frequency is more appealing than longer trains.
2. Are there circumstances in which the provision of new stops might be considered ahead of increased frequency or reduced journey times?
2. New stops might be considered where either
an assessment of demand outweighs loss of customers through delay, or
a station be better re-sited for (an) existing community(ies), or
a Park & Ride opportunity assists coherent road traffic planning, or
in a suburban area where cycle and bus ways are caused to converge on an integrated transport node.
In no circumstances should an existing city centre station location be lost.
3. What might be the most appropriate response to overcrowding on trains at the peak?
3. Attractive fares on the shoulders of the Peak.
4. How might communities be more effectively engaged in the 'management' and 'monitoring' of the safety and security of the railways that serve them?
4. Aspiring franchisees need to demonstrate the resource allocated to building closer links with communities/stakeholders. Formal links with local authorities are not enough if entrepreneurship is to succeed. The Highland Rail Partnership of the industry, local authorities, the Highlands & Islands Enterprise Network and rail support/user groups is a purposeful model. The industry needs to develop local outreach - e.g. participation in Neighbourhood Watch Schemes inclusive of stations and an extension of the existing rail/environmental North Highland Travelling Classroom concept with its spin off of attracting youngsters to want to come back to rail as a future travel choice. In rural areas sub franchising of the sale of travel tickets through local shops should be developed.
5. How would you rank the following service quality improvements and why?
- Improving quality and comfort of the journey
- Simplifying ticketing
- Better availability of ticket offers
- Improving customer care
- Better information and communication
- A reliable timetable
- Developing IT and automation to the benefit of passengers
5. We rank these options thus:-
- Improved quality and comfort and - a reliable timetable which is taken to mean one to which trains run on time
- Better availability of ticket offers both with a simplified fares structure and easier access to ticket purchasing
- Better information systems with clear audible and visual communication
- Improved customer care in which Scotrail performs well
- I.T. and automation
6 How might passenger rail services best assist with the alleviation of road-based congestion and pollution caused by road traffic?
6. Rail services can assist the alleviation of road based congestion and pollution caused by road traffic.
The integration of feeder bus services requires a "carrot and stick" approach
Targeting rail infrastructure investment along traffic corridors where rail and road compete should shorten rail journey time and thus build market share
7. How might more people be encouraged to choose the train as their preferred mode of transport?
7. People do not like to walk if they can avoid it. Whenever possible level short and signposted interchanges should be offered as between each of city street, bus, car and taxi set down, and station cycle storage; with the railway carriage door. Suburban services in major cities should be at fifteen minute intervals.
8. How can passenger rail services best assist with the reduction of peripherality? Is it more a case of better integration rather than simply reduced journey times?
8. Speed and frequency assisted by better integrated timetabling and comfortable interchange between modes.
9. Is the expansion of the railway network the most effective means of improving public transport links to rural communities and regional centres?
9. Again the coupling of rural communities and regional centres is inappropriate. If as suggested earlier "Regional Centre" is taken to include the six cities on the rail network then catchment population, speed and frequency are keys to potential rail passenger growth. Inverness together with northwards and west Moray has a catchment of circa 200,000 and Aberdeen of 400,000+. The capacity of the network needs to be expanded to provide hourly interval services on both Inverness-Aberdeen and Inverness-Perth (Ladybank), thus easing road congestion.
There are significant Regional Communities in for instance the Borders, Buchan and Caithness. We welcome the initiative to reverse the destruction of 1969 in the Borders and hope a new railway will provide the option of extension beyond St. Boswells to either Hawick or Tweedmouth. Whilst the population of Caithness with Orkney (via the Pentland Crossing) is little more than 40,000 its distance from markets makes the Far North Line attractive for further rail development. Adequate capacity for freight is required on secondary routes.
Commuter traffic is growing from rural communities around Aberdeen, Inverness and Perth using existing railways. More rural villages which happen to be on railways with freight and tourist traffic should continue to have passenger services.
10. How can rail fares be made more affordable to those on lower incomes and still ensure that the provision of rail services is commercially viable for the operator?
10. Further targeting of "Railcards". Where the GDP of a region is below the National Average as in the Highlands the residents Railcard is a good example. Social inclusion is best advanced through Social Security and local authority funded travel schemes.
11. What more can the rail industry do to improve accessibility?
11. Co-ordinated train-bus and train-taxi arrangements with standard add-on fares.
12. What early practical steps could be taken by the rail industry to support improved integration with other modes of transport?
12. Practical steps by the Rail industry to support integration with other modes
Through ticketing - rail and sea, rail and bus.
Integrated tourist packaging. The Scottish Passenger Railway should be of concern to the Scottish Tourist Board, who need to think inclusively.
Improved access to airports - this is a wider issue than the rail industry can handle alone. Since air transport is by far the least environmentally friendly form of transport strict controls are needed on it - for UK land journeys rail is a potential competitor providing speed is enhanced. Firm planning control is needed on the design of airport development to ensure air terminal/rail integration thus attracting businessmen and tourists to onward travel by rail. The mistakes have been so great in Scotland that Government should kick-start seamless air/rail integration at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dyce and Inverness airports.
13. How might the rail industry best participate in developing proposals fro new railway projects with local authorities and consortia?
13. Being seen to be working within local communities. There is a need for key staff in the regions to relate with confidence outside the railway sphere. Too many people in large organisations see their role as functionaries rather than as creative but reasoned visionaries. Transport is competitive.
14. What are the practical challenges for ensuring that the development of Scotland's passenger rail services is not jeopardised by the requirements for enhancements of cross-border service providers and rail freight companies?
14. Scotland's railways are interdependent with the wider UK network. The greater intensity of differing company interests is more concentrated from the central belt southwards with three basic traffic flows - long distance passenger, suburban and freight. The route via Kilmarnock and Dumfries provides relief on the west. On the east a route through the Borders rejoining the east coast mainline at Tweedmouth could provide relief. Regardless of substantive development there is likely to be a need for additional trackwork approaching the main cities if the potential for suburban traffic is to flower.
We thank you for the opportunity to comment, and hope that some of these thoughts will prove to be original.