Question S5W-20998: Rhoda Grant, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, answered 01/02/19
To ask the Scottish Government what action it has taken to fulfil the commitment that was made by the then First Minister in August 2008, following a Cabinet meeting in Inverness, to reduce train journey times between Inverness and Edinburgh to at least two hours 45 minutes, and an average of three hours, with the aim of making "railway travel to the heart of the Highlands, in terms of time, competitive with roads...by a mixture of projects, including line improvement, additional passing loops, double-tracking and signalling upgrades"; what improvements projects were introduced, broken down by what progress has been made with each, and, in light of the comment that "the timescale for implementation is 2011-12", for what reason the target date was not met, and by what date this level of service will be operational.
Michael Matheson: The Scottish Government's Infrastructure Investment Plan, published in 2011, stated that the Highland Main Line Rail Improvement project would be completed in phases between 2014 and 2025.
Phase one was delivered as planned in December 2012, increasing services from 9 to 11 trains per day in each direction, and reducing journey times by an average of 6 minutes at a cost of £1.2 million.
Phase two, which is currently scheduled to be completed in December 2019, will see a £57 million investment providing an hourly service between Perth and Inverness, delivery of a reduction in average journey times by around 10 minutes and more efficient freight operations. A fleet of refurbished High Speed Trains is planned to be used for this new timetable offering customers greater comfort and more capacity. We are engaged with local communities regarding calling points with the aim of providing calls at stations which represent maximum benefit for users of the service. The new timetable will also include improvements to the first and last trains. Overall, these plans will provide passengers with better connectivity with the Central Belt and Inverness whilst boosting the economic growth for the whole of Scotland.
The long term aspiration remains to deliver a fastest journey time of 2 hours 45 minutes between Inverness and the Central Belt.
Question S5W-22443: Rhoda Grant, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, answered 15/04/19
To ask the Scottish Government how many rail services were (a) cancelled or (b) delayed, broken down by minutes delayed, following the breakdown of a freight train on the single track north of Dalwhinnie on 11 March 2019.
Michael Matheson: Transport Scotland does not hold this information as the Franchise Agreement with Abellio does not obligate them to provide this information to the level requested.
Question S5W-22447: Rhoda Grant, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, answered 15/04/19
To ask the Scottish when double-tracking will be installed on the railway line north of Dalwhinnie to prevent blockages, such as that caused by the breakdown of a freight train on 11 March 2019.
Michael Matheson: Currently there are no plans to double track the Highland Main Line north of Dalwhinnie.
The completion, on 25 March 2019, of phase 2 of the Highland Main Line enhancements programme on time and under budget has delivered new infrastructure which provides an immediate performance and resilience enhancement onto the route. This will allow the roll out of improved ScotRail Inter7city services as the re-engineered High Speed Trains are delivered.
The long-term goal of the Highland Main Line enhancements programme seeks to achieve a fastest journey time of 2 hours 45 minutes between Inverness and the Central Belt with an average journey time of 3 hours and an hourly service by 2025.
The exact scope and timing of works for future phases has yet to be determined and will be led initially by the forthcoming refresh of the Scottish Government's Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR). The STPR will be informed by a review of our National Transport Strategy (NTS) which is underway. To achieve these outputs, an increase in double tracking may be required, however, interventions will be determined through Network Rail's development process.
Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP):
The announcement of 120 redundancies and the looming closure of the Gemini Rail Services works in my constituency is a devastating blow for a skilled and dedicated workforce. Gemini Rail has been inflexible, unimaginative and slow to engage meaningfully in our efforts to retain jobs and operations. Will the First Minister commit to continuing to explore all options to support workers to retain jobs and operations at the site? I stress that, if the Springburn works was to win the ScotRail 170 class train tender - work that Gemini Rail has staggeringly still failed to bid for - 30 jobs would be provided for three years and it would potentially kick-start the railway hub model that the Scottish Government is exploring.
The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon):
I pay tribute to Bob Doris for the way in which he is representing the interests of his constituents and I agree with the latter point that he made.
I was extremely disappointed to receive a letter from Gemini Rail yesterday that confirmed the closure of the workshops at Springburn and I know that it will be a very concerning time for workers there and their families. I stress that consideration needs to be given to potential options for keeping the site open. There will be a further meeting of stakeholders at the end of this month to discuss the way forward. The workshops have work to complete on vehicles that are leased to ScotRail until July this year and Gemini Rail has retained the lease until March next year. That means that there is time to work with industry with a view to repurposing the site for future rail use. To that end, Scottish Enterprise has already engaged independent financial advice in reviewing Gemini Rail's model for the site. We will keep members fully updated on any progress.