Alastair Dalton: Honesty needed, Transport Scotland

Winchburgh tunnel on the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line will undergo work. Picture: Julie Bull
Winchburgh tunnel on the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line will undergo work. Picture: Julie Bull
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TRANSPORT Scotland needs to be more upfront about Glasgow-Edinburgh rail link, says Alastair Dalton.

Details of the significant travel disruption to be caused by Scotland’s biggest rail project were finally published this week, with passengers promised: “It will be worth it in the long run”.

The Winchburgh tunnel on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line will be shut for six weeks in June and July, causing widespread changes to train travel across the Central Belt.

Information about the impact of that part of the £742 million Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (Egip) to electrify the route for quicker journeys is long overdue.

But it’s now time for far more frankness from Transport Scotland about the project than has been shown so far.

Passengers have been sidelined ever since the Scottish Government agency attempted to mask a major cutback to the project in 2012, describing it as “full steam ahead”.

Since then, officials have repeatedly stalled and obfuscated when questioned about changes to the scheme and their effects.

This has included seeking to deny revelations by The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday about delays – only for these to be later proved correct.

In 2013, we reported that the project faced being finished up to three years later than its planned 2016 completion date, which was rubbished at the time as “nonsense”.

However, three months later, a report by public spending watchdog Audit Scotland stated: “Transport Scotland expects to deliver phase one of Egip by March 2019.”

That story also revealed the Winchburgh tunnel closure – and since then we have asked repeatedly about what impact it would have on passengers, including in a freedom of information request which was knocked back.

It was only when The Scotsman obtained information from other sources – that no direct Edinburgh-Glasgow trains would run on the line during the closure – that it was admitted. Potentially even greater disruption will follow when the main part of Queen Street station in Glasgow is closed for an expected several months in the summer of next year.

The shutdown is for track work but it was never mentioned during publicity last year about the redevelopment of the station. The way that such work has been handled has left me wondering what else is still lurking unannounced – and I’m still not convinced there won’t be more.

So with work on Egip under way in earnest, those in charge of the project must show far more honesty about what lies ahead over the next four years – otherwise weary passengers will wonder if it has been “worth it”.

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