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The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

Yestermonths in Parliament

Question S4W-16230: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/07/2013

To ask the Scottish Government for what reasons it did not take forward the proposal to construct a railway line between Inverkeithing and Halbeath as one of the 29 transport projects and programmes identified in the Strategic Transport Projects Review Final Report, published in 2009.

Answered by Keith Brown (23/07/2013): Despite the Scottish Government's capital budget being cut by 26% in real terms since 2010-11, we remain committed to delivering the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR) recommendations. The Scottish Ministers have prioritised a number of projects for delivery. These include the Queensferry Crossing, the Edinburgh to Glasgow Rail Improvements Programme, the Highland Main Line, rail improvements from Aberdeen to Inverness and the dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness. Given that the STPR covers a 20 year period, the pace at which the other STPR projects will be delivered, including a railway line between Inverkeithing and Halbeath, will be determined by the availability of resources in future spending reviews, taking account of the benefits they offer and the contribution they make to this Government's objectives.

(There has been a proposal around for several years to build a new railway from Inverkeithing to Halbeath, which is between Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath, roughly parallel with the M90. This would improve journey times from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness by diverting fast trains away from the coastal route via Burntisland and Kirkaldy, which has several severe speed restrictions and a number of intermediate stations served by stopping services; trains would re-join the present line at Thornton North Junction, south of Markinch. The present route between Inverkeithing and Cowdenbeath via Dunfermline is itself very curvy, which is why a new line is proposed. One of the stumbling blocks is that, although a new line would roughly halve the distance between Inverkeithing and Halbeath, the two locations are about three hundred feet apart in elevation, which would require a three-mile continuous gradient of around 1 in 50, rather steep for a railway. More recently, Transform Scotland has proposed the reopening of the route from Cowdenbeath to Bridge of Earn, south of Perth, which would bring Kinross back onto the railway map and further shorten the distance to Inverness. It has been calculated that this would save around 30 minutes on journey times but it has been costed at around a billion pounds and Transport Scotland has said that there is no business case for it.)

John Finnie, MSP has tabled questions to which the answers are expected on 20th September:

  1. To ask the Scottish Government whether the proposed improvements to the Highland Main Line will include restoration of the double-track section between Culloden Viaduct and Daviot.
  2. To ask the Scottish Government whether the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme timetable will ensure that fast paths are incorporated for services between Inverness and Edinburgh and Glasgow and that these will be compatible with the new timetable for services north of Perth.
  3. To ask the Scottish Government whether the timetables for rail services between the north of Perth and Edinburgh and Glasgow will be co-ordinated to optimise journey times

Naturally, we will report on the answers in the next Far North Express.