North-south direct trains saved after government ‘backtracks’
A PROPOSAL to cut off direct cross-Border trains to the north of Scotland has been abandoned, the transport minister has said.
Keith Brown announced yesterday the Scottish Government would not take forward an option to force passengers to change trains at Edinburgh for onward travel to and from cities such as Aberdeen and Inverness.
The controversial idea was floated in a wide-ranging consultation on the next ScotRail franchise from 2014.
However, opposition parties condemned his handling of the consultation, after he ruled out suggestions in the document to downgrade London sleeper services and close some Glasgow stations. Mr Brown, who travelled by train to Dundee to announce the move, said: “The Rail2014 consultation set out to ensure rail users were given a voice in how their service develops.
“That is why we listened when passengers in the north of Scotland told us they are happy with the direct service to and from England.
“I appreciate why there were concerns but it is right we give a full appraisal of the options and then let people have their say and I am very pleased to confirm this has resulted in the continuation of direct cross-Border services for the north of Scotland.”
The consultation paper stated that services north of Edinburgh were often “under-utilised”.
An “Edinburgh hub” was suggested as a way of moving passengers on to ScotRail. The consultation recognised “possible drawbacks” to the suggestion, including extra time added to journeys and the possibility of passengers choosing to take other forms of transport.
East Coast and CrossCountry extend their services north of Edinburgh, but First TransPennine and Virgin terminate in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
During the visit to Dundee railway station, Mr Brown also announced he has negotiated a “greater say” for Scotland in the specification of the next Department for Transport east coast franchise, due next year.
Labour spokesman Richard Baker MSP said: “It is a relief that common sense has prevailed. But Keith Brown has still failed to rule out other damaging changes including station closures, longer journey times and more passengers having to stand. This consultation has been a shambles and there are real questions about whether this is the right person to be in charge of Scotland’s bus and rail network.”
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone MSP said: “This is the second U-turn by Keith Brown since the publication of the consultation document when proposals to scale back or end completely the sleeper service were trumped by Chancellor George Osborne’s promise of £50 million to upgrade the service.
“I hope other madcap ideas will continue to be dropped.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Jim Hume MSP said: “These flawed plans would have penalised passengers and would have meant longer more complicated journeys.
“The transport minister now needs to start thinking about a long-term solution for our railways so that passengers get a fairer deal, like longer-term franchises.”
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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