A TRANSPORT campaign group has called for a “rail revolution” to make train travel in Scotland faster, safer and greener.
Transform Scotland said the country’s rail network needs upgrading urgently and has issued a list of key developments that it believes would bring cities closer together by providing travellers with a “safe, civilised and sustainable” mode of transport.
The group is calling for a reduction in journey times from Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee to the Central Belt through the electrification and doubling of rail lines.
It also suggests a new direct rail link from Perth to Edinburgh, cutting up to 35 minutes off travel times from Inverness and Perth to the capital.
According to spokesman Paul Tetlaw, the current 71-minute journey time from Perth to Edinburgh is slower than the equivalent journey 100 years ago when it took 65 minutes.
“Scotland needs a rail revolution,” he said.
“Our campaign will build broad civic support for a planned programme of investment in the Scottish rail network over the next 15 years to bring all seven of Scotland’s cities closer together with a safe, civilised and sustainable mode of transport and make Scotland’s rail network fit for the 21st century.
“In doing so, we can reduce journey times, support travellers and commuters, create jobs, support the Scottish economy and reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions.”
Transform Scotland is an independent charity that advocates sustainable travel and has a membership of around 60 organisations.
The Inter-City Express campaign is supported by Rail Freight Group, Capital Rail Action Group, the Friends of the Far North Line and the Scottish Association for Public Transport.
Rail Freight Group spokesman David Spaven said: “The great thing about radically upgrading the rail infrastructure north of the central belt is that freight transport would benefit enormously, as well as passengers.
“With a fit-for-purpose Perth-Inverness railway, for example, we could increase the number of daily freight trains from two to as many as eight in each direction. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 300 lorries off the A9 every day.”
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland insisted the Scottish Government had invested record funds, amounting to £8 billion over the next years.
She said: “The Scottish Government recognises the benefits of a continued programme of rail electrification and will be developing a strategy to identify future phases of electrification beyond the current committed schemes.
“As ScotRail has confirmed, the May 2014 timetable will see a number of changes to improve peak time travel to and from Aberdeen on weekdays. These will include a new morning peak service from Inverurie to Aberdeen, and two services from Aberdeen to Dyce between 4pm and 5pm.
“We are also delivering the Aberdeen-Inverness Rail Improvements Project, which will reduce journey times and provide greater connectivity with a number of major improvements along the route.
“We are also committed to encouraging modal shift from road to rail and are investing heavily to encourage more people to use the train.
“Our £5bn package of funding and investment for our railways until 2019 will support improvements to infrastructure and services across the network, benefiting both freight and passengers alike.
“This includes substantial improvements to the Highland Mainline to complement the A9 improvements.”