Work on constructing the new Edinburgh International Gateway station got under way earlier this year with expected completion by December 2016. The station is being built at Gogar and will provide an interchange connection with the tram serving Edinburgh Airport for passengers from trains on the lines from Fife, Aberdeen and Perth/Inverness.
A question that has to be settled is whether trains from Inverness should call there? It will add some 4 or 5 minutes on to the total travel time from Inverness to Edinburgh. This is at a time when we are desperately trying to get the journey time on the route substantially reduced.
There may be a few business people who use Edinburgh Airport combined with the train from the Highlands regularly and many more people who go on holiday once or twice a year via this route. Does this justify adding precious minutes onto an already long journey for the majority who will be wanting to get to Edinburgh rather than the Airport?
It is understood that the Edinburgh to Aberdeen trains are designated as Expresses and will not be stopping there. Shouldn't the Inverness trains be treated similarly? There is a good frequent alternative bus service straight to the airport from outside both Haymarket and Waverley stations which takes passengers closer to the terminal building than the tram stop.
Many local services to Fife, Perth, Dundee and semifast trains to Aberdeen will stop at Gateway. The scheme is seen by the Edinburgh Evening News, and others, principally as a catalyst for building offices and houses nearby as the station will be only 10 minutes by train from the city centre as against 20 minutes or more by tram.
Inverness to Edinburgh services currently take between 3 hours 16 minutes and 3 hours 43 minutes at average speeds of between 53.5mph and 47 mph including station stops. This is not competitive with going by road. The aspiration is to get the headline journey time down to 2 hours 45 minutes or 63.6 mph. This project has been delayed by phasing and an announcement is due concerning an average journey time reduction of up to 10 minutes in the next phase to be completed by 2018/19. The full aspiration is now postponed until 2025.
There are serious constraints suffered by the Inverness trains south of Perth. They are routed via the single track line to Ladybank via Newburgh. Late running causes trains to be cancelled because there is no crossing loop at Newburgh and trains take 21 minutes to get through the section so it is impossible to run more than 3 per hour unless they are all going in the same direction.
The route along the coast from Kirkcaldy to Inverkeithing is very tortuous and slow as well as being heavily used. Southbound Inverness services take an extra 10 minutes between Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh than they do in the opposite direction because they are timetabled to run behind a local service which stops at every station. These constraints need serious attention. The best solution would be that proposed by the sustainable transport alliance Transform Scotland to electrify the lines from Dunblane to Perth and Perth to Inverness and run electric trains from Inverness via Stirling rather than by Kirkcaldy until the former direct route to Edinburgh via Kinross is rebuilt as a fast electrified line. Connections would still be available at Perth to and from stations in Fife.
In the meantime, gradual progress towards faster services should not be jeopardised by inserting an extra stop of limited value.