General Question Time - 30 Jan 2020. Rail Infrastructure (Highlands)
Question S5O-04082: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party
To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has for improving rail infrastructure in the Highlands.
Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity: The recent £57 million Highland mainline investment has delivered performance and resilience improvements, and, by May 2020, there will be around a 10-minute journey-time saving between Inverness and the Central Belt. The £330 million Aberdeen to Inverness project has delivered a new station at Forres and a half-hourly service between Aberdeen and Inverurie. Additional services between Inverness and Elgin are planned for May 2020. Looking forward, the second strategic transport projects review is under way to identify the transport investment priorities for the next 20 years, and it will include Scotland's rail network.
John Finnie: I thank the cabinet secretary for that response, but what he said is at odds with the Inverness city region deal, which makes no mention of rail or trains but has £64 million for the so-called west link and £109 million for the so-called east link. A modest passing loop at Lentran would increase capacity to not only the west but the north and would obviate the need for the ridiculous flyover that is proposed for the south side of the Kessock bridge. When is the Scottish Government going to prioritise public transport?
Michael Matheson: We do prioritise public transport. The member will be aware that the Inverness and Highland city region deal has been shaped by local partners, recognising the key strategic investments that are necessary to support and create inclusive economic growth in the Highlands. There is no doubt in my mind that providing the right road infrastructure is critical to that.
Alongside that, as I have just outlined, we have invested £330 million in the rail line between Inverness and Aberdeen and nearly £60 million in the Highland mainline. As I also set out, through the STPR2 process, we will look to make further strategic investments - including in rail, such as in the Highland mainline - to make sure that we continue investing in our public transport as we have in recent years.
Question S5W-27450: Rhoda Grant, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Answered 05/03/20.
To ask the Scottish Government how much it has invested in the Highland mainline in each of the last five years.
Michael Matheson: The Scottish Government has invested £57 million on major projects on the Highland Mainline over the last 5 years to improve services and performance along the length of the route. This investment has also delivered a ten minute journey time saving between Inverness and the Central Belt.
The Scottish Government has also invested £2.2 million in other works along the route, including improving accessibility at both Aviemore and Pitlochry Stations.
[A breakdown of the £57 million project spend followed.]
Question S5W-28045: Rhoda Grant, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour. Answered 07/04/20
To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-27450 by Michael Matheson on 5 March 2020, how it calculated the 10-minute figure.
Michael Matheson: The 10 minute journey time improvement on the Highland Mainline was calculated to be achieved through a combination of track enhancement and the delivery and introduction into service of all 26 refurbished High Speed Trains (HSTs).
[Unfortunately, in this reply, the Cabinet Secretary did not acknowledge the error in his original answer.]
2012 was the baseline year from which a 10-minute reduction in journey time by 2019 was promised but has not yet been achieved by any measure, as the table below demonstrates.
For comparison the Scottish Government's stated intention in 2008 was for the journey time to be reduced to 2¾ hours (165 mins) by 2012. "Railways must at least compete with the roads."