The Scottish Government's long awaited STPR2 finally reached the draft report stage in January as reported briefly in FNE 85. There followed a consultation period, with responses via a questionnaire which had to be supplied by 15 April. Later this year the final report will be published.
We do not know what level of detail, if any, to expect but it is worrying that one of the declared intentions is to work with what we have. This would of course be fine if what we have in the Highlands were sufficient to transport the extra passengers and freight from the modal shift which is the Scottish Government's aim.
There are reasons to be optimistic amongst the list of general improvements referred to in the report. It is clear that the writers, and therefore the Scottish Government, are well aware of the need to improve the "strategic corridors", but as yet there are few details of specific aims or the plan to achieve them.
There is a very long section in the Draft Report describing the 'sifting' process. Whilst struggling to keep the image of a room full of flour-covered people in chef's whites out of one's mind, we read that "Approximately 14,000 individual ideas/suggestions/options were identified at this stage in the process." After "option cleaning", which means removing duplicates, the list was reduced to around 2,800 options which then had to be "sifted". Sifting is the process of comparing the suggestions with various criteria: STPR objectives, Regional Problems & Opportunities, Deliverability, Strategic Option, Investment Hierarchy.
This reduced the list to 1,428 options which were to proceed eventually to Preliminary Appraisal. These were grouped into categories, of which 197 were under 'Rail', 40 under 'Bus' and a further 168 under 'Public Transport'. These were further reduced to 45 'recommendations' of which STPR2 says, "Within the list of recommendations, there are no specific priorities, as each component is important in addressing the complex needs of our nation. Neither are these interventions the sole responsibility of Transport Scotland to deliver, indeed many will rely on working together or for others to take forward." Searching for 'actual' plans affecting the Highlands we find this for the Highland Main Line:
"STPR2 recommends a programme of enhancements, including new and longer passing loops with more flexibility, and permissible speed increases. This would achieve improvements to journey times and increases in capacity and reliability for passenger and freight services. Precise interventions would be developed following more detailed work in the business case process."
We are also reassured that Inverness gets a mention under "Stations":
"STPR2 makes three core recommendations. These involve continued investment in the major rail stations in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and Inverness". References to the Far North Line are about the possible development of freight facilities at Georgemas and Altnabreac and "Far North Line Capacity Improvements (South of Invergordon)". There is also mention of an Orkney to mainland Scotland fixed link but one suspects they may not have a Far North Line terminus in Kirkwall in mind!
Early in the STPR2 process FoFNL was invited to send in a submission. It is appropriate to print both that and the response document we attached to our completed STPR2 Draft Report Questionnaire on the following pages. That actual questionnaire is too long to include here so there is a link to it on the companion web page for this issue - www.fofnl.org.uk/fne86.php - along with a link to the full STPR2 Draft Report and our 2020 Submission.
The first Strategic Transport Projects Review was published in 2008 and contained specific recommendations, as can be seen here in the answer to a Parliamentary Question asked by Mary Scanlon MSP on 11 June 2009. [Referred to by Richard Ardern in his article.] Rail was overtaken by road projects on that occasion, let's hope this time it's different.
S3W-24784: Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands), Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Date lodged: 11 June 2009
To ask the Scottish Executive what improvements are planned for a faster and more frequent rail service from Inverness to (a) the far north, (b) Aberdeen, (c) Perth and (d) Kyle of Lochalsh and what the expected completion dates are.
Answered by Stewart Stevenson: 19 June 2009
A number of recent timetable improvements reflect this Government's continuing commitment to increasing the frequency of rail services and reducing journey times, including:
From December 2008:
From May 2009:
The following interventions, which will contribute to faster and more frequent rail services, are recommended in the Strategic Transport Projects Review:
|Highland Main Line |
|Reduction in journey times between Inverness and Perth by 35 mins, resulting in a faster journey time [between Inverness and Edinburgh]* of 2 hours 45 mins; |
Infrastructure improvements to facilitate the operation of longer freight trains.
*error in original answer
|Estimated completion date: 2012-2013.|
|Aberdeen to Inverness Rail Improvements (Project 19)||Reduction in journey times between Inverness and Aberdeen by up to 20 mins; |
New station at Dalcross to serve Inverness Airport.
|Will be progressed by 2016.|
|Enhancements (Project 12)||Replacement of signalling on Highland Main Line; |
A number of infrastructure improvements throughout the network.
|Electrification of the Rail Network (Project 6)||Electrification of the entire Scottish rail network is a long-term objective which will contribute to the reduction in overall CO2 emissions in Scotland.||Phase 1 of the programme (Glasgow to Edinburgh line via Falkirk) estimated completion date: 2016. |
Remaining phases of the programme will be delivered according to our investment hierarchy and subject to availability of funds.