This summer selection shows how hard MSPs work on behalf of the Far North Line.
S4W-25421: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Independent, 01/05/2015
To ask the Scottish Government when the extra commuter trains between Inverness and Elgin, which were discussed at the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership board meeting of 10 April 2015, will become operational; what times of day they will operate, and how it will ensure that there will be sufficient (a) train sets available and (b) spare capacity retained at Inverness as contingency cover for breakdowns.
Derek Mackay: Transport Scotland is currently working with Abellio, ScotRail and Network Rail, progressing the development work that will ensure that the opportunities presented by investment in the Aberdeen-Inverness line for passengers and freight are realised as early as possible.
S4W-25422: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Independent, 01/05/2015
To ask the Scottish Government how much double-tracking between Inverness and Nairn, as set out in August 2014 in the document, Aberdeen to Inverness Rail Improvements Project GRIP 3 - Phase 1 Enhancements, is to be provided; where it will be laid, and what the timescale is for the work.
Derek Mackay: Infrastructure improvements for the Aberdeen to Inverness Improvements project, including some double tracking between Inverness and Nairn, will be prioritised for delivery in the next phase of the project (during Control Period 6 2019-24). I can confirm that the Scottish Government is absolutely committed to delivering significant journey time improvements and greater connectivity on the Inverness to Aberdeen corridor, including enhancing services between Inverness and Elgin.
S4W-25466: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Independent, 07/05/2015
To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the outcome of the trial in 2013 that examined the feasibility of moving bulk spirit and other food products between Elgin and Grangemouth by rail, whether the safety benefits that were identified for the A9, A95, A96 and other roads will be taken account of when appraising proposed public investment or grant aid for a regular so-called whisky train service from the north to central Scotland.
Derek Mackay: The Scottish Government's Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance requires an assessment of safety benefits as part of the overall appraisal process for transport investment. In addition, safety benefits of transferring freight from road to rail are fully taken into account when assessing applications for funding from the Government's Freight Facilities Grant Scheme.
We are currently refreshing our Rail Freight Strategy, which will include how best to maximise investment in rail freight in Scotland.
S4O-04456: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Independent, 03/06/2015
To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has for rail freight hubs.
Derek Mackay: Rail hubs are privately owned facilities and it remains the responsibility of operators to determine whether to invest in existing facilities to support growth or to create new ones. The Scottish Government will continue to support this process, for example through investment in the infrastructure where there are network wide benefits or by identifying appropriate opportunities in the National Planning Framework. In addition the Scottish Government is currently developing a rail freight strategy which will consider a broad range of issues and in particular how best to work with the industry to maximise the benefits of any future public investment in rail freight facilities.
S4W-26117: Rhoda Grant, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, 15/06/2015
To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S4W-24607 by Derek Mackay on 6 March 2015, from which ScotRail services the Borders Railway rolling stock will be drawn, and how many of the class 158 trains that are based in Inverness will be included.
Keith Brown: It is an operational matter for Abellio ScotRail to decide which trains from within its diesel fleet it allocates for Borders services. Those planned to be used on Borders services also work across other routes in central Scotland, including, predominantly, Fife to maximise the available capacity in and out of Edinburgh.
Borders services will be operated by class 158s and this fleet will begin a significant refurbishment programme in July 2015. When these upgraded units start to roll out they will operate on Borders services from September 2015.
S4W-26120: Rhoda Grant, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, 15/06/2015
To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to reduce the number of class 158 trains on Inverness services.
Derek Mackay: It is for Abellio ScotRail (ASR) to allocate sufficient rolling stock capacity for its services from within its fleet and it has no plans to reduce seats on routes in and out of Inverness. ASR has obligations to allocate suitable capacity to match passenger loadings which Transport Scotland will continue to monitor through the franchise agreement.