It is really coming to something when the Director of Rail for Transport Scotland replies, "I'm looking forward to finding out", when asked at a conference what effect the Williams-Shapps Review findings, and the setting up of Great British Railways, will have in Scotland. With Scottish ministers and civil servants kept at arm's length from the Union Connectivity Review and the Williams-Shapps Review the relationship between the two governments, certainly as far as rail is concerned, could be described as dysfunctional.
This, one assumes, is the manifestation of the Westminster Government's fear of Scottish Independence and therefore an aversion to doing anything which could be misinterpreted as either acknowledgment of its likelihood, or tacit approval of such an outcome. The refusal to even discuss separating Network Rail Scotland Route to come under Scottish Government control, despite the obvious logic of that, is another example. Whatever one's political views on Scottish Independence it is clearly the case that the Scottish railway already works as a team - Team Scotland is how it is referred to by the participants. We too are looking forward to finding out how on earth Great British Railways is meant to function in Scotland.
On 1 April ScotRail Trains took control of ScotRail from Abellio, thereby nationalising most rail operations in Scotland. It will be interesting to see how this turns out - initial reactions from ScotRail managers seem positive, particularly in respect of the ability to make longer term plans than has been possible under the franchise system. To be successful this needs politicians to take a much longer term view too, but at the same time to make sure that work needed to give sufficient capacity for the planned modal shift to rail is begun as soon as possible. No more huge reports full of general aspirations - we need an action plan now.
On 28 April the Scottish Government Economy and Fair Work Committee published its report on Scotland's supply chain. This has been under stress recently because of Brexit, a shortage of HGV drivers, Covid-19 and now the war in Ukraine. Its call for evidence elicited 40 responses and evidence was also gathered in oral sessions. Naturally we hope that rail freight would be seen as key and certainly there are many references in the report to the need to improve rail infrastructure to accommodate this. It was good to see the following from Kerr Dunvegan (consultants): "The first priority for the Scottish supply chain is to accelerate the transfer of freight from road to rail. This will have short and long term benefits:" which are then listed in detail.
Let's hope the politicians are paying attention!