Newsletter No.40 Revisited
What happens now...?
Any member who still has a copy of Newsletter 40 (March 2007) might have a few moments of fun re-reading it. It was a slim extra copy produced in the run-up to the Holyrood elections in May of that year. It started by listing the ten things in an even earlier Newsletter (25, in the run-up to the 2001 General Election, when railway matters in Scotland were still very much a Westminster responsibility) which had set out as Questions To Ask Your Candidate. The 2005 article reckoned that one out of the ten (Invernet) had been achieved which, while a good start, was hardly thrilling stuff. The article set out, in a leisurely way, what The Real Rail Way Ahead: 2007 - 2035
should look like.
And in many ways it was gratifyingly accurate. The 12 things (there had been some inflation) listed were:
- Do some work on redoubling and/or loops on the FNL and Kyle Line (no, but NR might be beginning to think about a loop at Lentran);
- RETB replacement and colour light signalling as far as Dingwall (no, but TS might be thinking about extending the planned HML installation of ERTMS beyond Inverness);
- Controlled-emission toilets on 158s (YES);
- Further extension of Invernet (YES);
- Inverness-Aberdeen redoubling and/or loops (no, but some work is planned in CP5);
- HML doubling (no, but this is clearly in NR planning);
- Gauge clearance to allow 170s and 22Xs to run on inter-city routes (no, but an even better option of having HSTs on these routes by 2019, so scored as a YES since better rolling stock was the desired outcome);
- Replacement rolling stock (partial, but the matter is very much on the table. The new electric sets for EGIP will certainly score a YES and the HSTs on the inter-city score a YES. Whether the much-vaunted "tourist train" - sexed up 158s - will strike FNL users as anything new is a matter still in the jury room);
- E-G electrification (YES);
- Waverley Phase II (YES, and very fine it is);
- GSWR doubling (no);
- Initial work on identifying a route for High Speed between Edinburgh and Glasgow (partial, as the idea of HSx is firmly in Scottish Ministers' minds, linking with HS2 and even perhaps (stripping out the pre-election guff) starting to build south from the Central Belt towards some English destination - Newcastle?).
That's 5½ YES
, and 5 no
. A lot better than 1 out of 10 last time. Pushing for items 1 and 2 are FoFNL's highest priority now as although there have been several successful predictions their benefits have not been felt up here. Caithness and Sutherland passengers, taxpayers and - occasionally - voters require the pendulum to swing their way. The Central Belt is swallowing up investment (albeit at nothing like the London rate); the Borders are now having their cake. Rail spending per head of population in London exceeds the spending per head in the north of England by a factor of several dozen; it probably exceeds the amount spent per head of population in the north of Scotland by a factor of several hundred. But in 2016 there's another Holyrood election, and this autumn there's the start of the CP6 planning process, so come on, chaps, time for delivery.