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Expanded rail network integral to a sustainable transport system

Published 31 May 2019 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland has today submitted written evidence to the UK Department for Transport’s Williams Rail Review consultation. Our response focuses on Scottish and Cross-Border rail. In our response, we make clear the crucial role that an improved and expanded rail network can play in creating a sustainable transport network. The growth in rail travel over the last 20 years, despite Government’s mismanagement of the transport sector, demonstrates rail’s potential to contribute significantly to the reduction of climate emissions from a transport sector that has stagnant emissions in Scotland.

Paul Tetlaw, Convener of Transform’s Policy Forum, said:

“In the rail industry itself, there has been a clear lack of any long-term strategic plan to allow rail to grow and develop and therefore play a much bigger role in the transport challenges we face. A major change in the structure and governance of the railway is now required – one that recognises the potential that a well structured and managed industry can contribute to society as a whole.”

Speaking on ensuring the railway is for passengers, Paul said:

“It seems self-evident, but requires re-stating: the passenger railway actually exists to carry passengers where they wish to go, at times they wish to travel, in a comfortable and easy to use manner and at prices they find attractive. So, as is now widely reported all players in the passenger railway, including governments should be focussed on the passenger and ensuring that their journey is as easy and comfortable as possible.”

On franchising, Paul said:

“The current franchising model is now not fit for purpose. It should be replaced by an operational model closely tied to the long-term plan for the railway with rolling stock and infrastructure enhancements planned as part of a rolling programme of improvements.” 

Speaking on the lack of progress on expanding freight on the railway, Paul said:

“Easy wins will flow from the creation of longer and equal length loops and electrification plans should
consider the needs of freight to allow a transition to electric haulage for most freight movements. As traffic
movements in our cities are transformed, there is a need to plan for city centre deliveries of rail freight –
integrated with ‘last mile delivery’ by electrically-powered road vehicles.

By adopting a strategic and long-term plan for growth, the industry needs to move to a ‘can do’ attitude for
developing the rail freight industry.”

Our full response to the Williams Rail Review is available here.