The GRIP3 report on improved infrastructure proposals for the HML will now be able to take account of Abellio's proposed use of short formation High Speed Trains (HSTs) as a stop gap until electrification.
The Scottish Government has a stated aspiration to continue with rail electrification post EGIP and to try to complete all major routes by 2030. The biggest gains from electrification come from the way electric trains can charge up the hills at 100mph as you can observe when driving up to Beattock summit on the M74.
Thus continuing electrification post 2018 from Dunblane to Perth - two long hills up to Blackford and all the way down to Perth - and then continuing from Perth to Inverness over the major gradients either side of Druimuachdar and Slochd would bring big journey time gains. Given priority, this might even be completed before 2025 and many of the single line stretches could be doubled at the same time to greatly increase capacity particularly for freight.
Electric passenger trains could then run to both Glasgow and Edinburgh via Stirling, avoiding the slow line to Edinburgh through Fife where the Inverness trains currently lose 10 minutes by following a slow stopping train all the way in to Edinburgh from Kirkcaldy.
If we think of this objectively in terms of completing Scotland's strategic railway system between all the cities, in terms of the tourist boost and the boost to the Highland economy, we have a strong case and the benefit-cost ratio in terms of journey time minutes saved will be greatest for the Highland route.
Another factor to consider is that at Pitlochry and through Atholl there are hydro electric power supplies alongside the route. Indeed, the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board proposed electrifying this railway as an early scheme way back in the 1950s. Perhaps we have waited long enough now?
More immediately, we have to ensure that fast paths are available between Perth and Edinburgh/Glasgow for the Inverness trains in the new EGIP timetable and I am told this is now Abellio's responsibility.