New map shows Scotland’s rail commuter boom

2014-2015. Picture: Contributed
2014-2015. Picture: Contributed
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Scotland’s rail boom is dramatically illustrated in maps published today which show some stations are handling more than 100 times more passengers than 20 years ago.

However, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) research also found some stations have seen a significant decline in popularity.

1997-1998. Picture: Contributed

1997-1998. Picture: Contributed

The news comes as the ScotRail Alliance, which runs the network north of the Border, forecasts passenger numbers will further increase from more than 90 million to 139 million over next decade.

Dalgety Bay in Fife, a commuter station on the Edinburgh line, recorded the biggest growth. The 2,608 passengers in 1997-98 – when it opened – have rocketed to 307,812 in 2014-15, or up 11,703 per cent, the CBT said.

The commuter village of Howwood in Renfrewshire has had a 7,689 per cent increase to 119,876 passengers since it opened in 2001.

Stations on reopened lines with the biggest growth include Armadale in West Lothian – up 1,568 per cent – on the restored Airdrie-Bathgate route, and Chatelherault (up 1,891 per cent) on the restored Hamilton-Larkhall line.

But several on the Inverness-Wick/Thurso line, which has been plagued by poor punctuality and long journey times, saw declines, including Culrain in Sutherland, down 74 per cent to 530 passengers.

CBT policy analyst Andrew Allen said: “Overall, the railways have grown very strongly in the last 20 years, but this map reveals just how uneven that growth has been.

“Investment has tended to focus on relieving overcrowding, while leaving other parts of the country in a time warp.

“Initiatives like the Borders Railway suggest politicians are willing to make bold decisions about investment. The challenge is to make these the norm.”

Sustainable transport campaigners Transform Scotland said the Thurso/Wick line should be improved.

Director Colin Howden said: “Hopefully, the new ScotRail franchise’s focus on community rail might be able to drive passenger growth even on the line to the Far North.”

A ScotRail Alliance spokeswoman said: “The map reveals widespread demand for rail travel as an attractive public transport option. Factors that drive growth include improvements to timetables, new or refurbished trains, and increased capacity, all of which we are addressing within this franchise.”