RECORD passenger numbers on Scotland’s railways are expected to increase further with a host of extra ScotRail train services from May, transport minister Keith Brown announced today.
It came as First Minister Alex Salmond revealed a £170 million upgrade of the Aberdeen-Inverness line over the next five years, including re-doubling tracks on the Aberdeen-Inverurie section, and platform extensions for longer trains.
In the 18 May changes, direct Edinburgh-Ayr trains will be introduced and Glasgow-Oban weekday services doubled, along with those between Glasgow and Aberdeen on Sundays.
There will also be more rush hour trains between Aberdeen and Inverurie.
Anderston station in Glasgow city centre will open on Sundays for the first time since it was built 120 years ago, and Sunday trains introduced on the city’s Queen Street-Maryhill-Anniesland line.
ScotRail’s annual passenger total has increased by one third to 83 million since the current franchise started ten years ago, and it is expected to reach 85m this year.
Mr Brown said: “The people of Scotland are truly embracing their railway with record numbers of passengers in recent years.
“More than 83 million used ScotRail services last year and we want to see that trend continue.
“Delivering these enhancements before Scotland welcomes the world during key events means we can actively encourage public transport use during the summer and long beyond.”
ScotRail managing director Steve Montgomery said: “We have added services where demand is highest for commuters in the north east, Central Belt and west of Scotland. Leisure travellers, too, have more opportunities to use trains for days out or weekends away.”
The Aberdeen-Inverness line upgrade will include longer platforms at Insch and Elgin, Elgin signalling improvements to improve its reliability, and re-location of Forres station with an extended loop for trains passing each other.
This will pave the way towards a future hourly service between the cities taking around two hours - some 20 minutes quicker than at present. There are currently gaps of two hours or more between trains.
The work will also enable possible future stations to be built at Dalcross near Inverness Airport and Kintore.
Mr Salmond said: “I am determined we continue to seek improvements to Scotland’s train infrastructure, ensuring we have an efficient, reliable and comfortable service for passengers.
“That is why today’s announcement is so important – a huge £170 million investment on the Aberdeen-Inverness line that will make journeys shorter, more frequent and more comfortable for those who use this important line regularly.