Train of thought

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Just as we reach the point where, at long last, Scotland is promised trains fit for purpose, Transport Scotland manages to shoot itself in the foot, while Network Rail displays all the worst of a “can’t do” attitude.

Hidden away in the Transport Scotland draft tender for franchise is the ghastly news that long-distance trains serving Galloway and the West Highlands will continue the 20th-century handicap of a single toilet for a complete train. Anyone who has travelled on one of these frequently crowded trains knows the misery and indignity a single toilet brings on a long journey.

The rest of the train detail in the tender document presents a fascinating glimpse of the obvious, the very points which rail campaigners have been trying to publicise since the dark day 24 years ago in 1989 when real trains vanished from Scottish services, and toy trains were inflicted upon us.

From Portugal to Poland, rail authorities have no problem in running express trains designed for people and the luggage they bring with them.

Why is it that here in Scotland, where railways have been part of the infrastructure for more than a century-and-a-half, we still aren’t managing to get matters right? If weak bridges and lack of on-train toilets are allowed to continue into this new franchise, Scotland will be cursed for yet another generation with trains unfit for the job.

We could get it right this time. All it takes is a can-do attitude. Do Transport Scotland and Network Rail possess the smeddum?