Rail work turns focus on ways to be sustainable

A JOURNEY shared is pollution halved as we look forward to greener train connections, says Russell Imrie.

There are many benefits to having Scotland's rail travel be more efficient. Picture: Michael Gillen

SEStran is committed to the development of a sustainable transportation system for south-east Scotland. Effective public transport is core to such a development, as well as the sensible use of cars and encouraging alternatives like cycling and walking for shorter journeys.

The current rail improvement works at the Winchburgh tunnel will introduce cleaner, more reliable trains as part of the £742 mollion Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) which will electrify the Edinburgh-Glasgow Queen Street line by 2016. It will mean 20 per cent faster journeys on longer, faster, greener and quieter electric trains between Scotland’s two main cities.

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The new electrical service will mark a step change in the quality of service on the line and make a significant contribution towards reducing carbon emissions on Scotland’s busiest rail route.

Inevitably however, while the works take place, there will be service alterations and delays will occur.

As always, necessity is the mother of invention – so why not consider some of the sustainable alternatives?

Bus services in south-east Scotland are generally excellent and SEStran has recently extended real time bus passengers information to key services run by Stagecoach and Firstbus throughout the region, through bustrackerSEStran – our free Smartphone app, also available online. Over 350 vehicles are already on the system with more to follow soon. We are also extending the system through a new initiative that will see TV screens introduced in major public buildings, hospitals, shopping centres and other public places.

For shorter journeys some travellers may like to consider cycling – or even walking. Both can often be quicker, a lot more fun – and healthier – than the alternatives, as was recently shown by the SEStran Edinburgh Commuter challenge. The fastest time was by cycle from Fife to St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh – six minutes faster than by car and three minutes faster than the express bus.

But for many people the natural option will be to go by car. This will cause a number of problems, as the number of commuters going by road increases – greater congestion, longer delays and increased pollution, not to mention the problems of frayed tempers and finding parking. It will, for many people be a frustrating and expensive inconvenience.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Car sharing is increasingly the norm throughout Europe and it can play a major role in keeping our cities moving and tackling the increasing problems of traffic congestion and pollution. SEStran is already working with European partners on two major car and journey sharing initiatives.

The first, “NweRIDE”, aims to reduce the number of cars on the road through using flexible ridesharing systems to encourage car sharing and connect with public transport.

Meanwhile the “Chums” project addresses the problem of low car occupancy and the 50 per cent of journeys in cities that cannot be accommodated by public transport. Chums aims to encourage people to consider car sharing through trials in five “champion” cities across Europe: Edinburgh, Craivo in Romania, Leuven in Belgium, Toulouse in France and Perugia in Italy.

SEStran supports car sharing in south-east Scotland through TripshareSEStran; a free car sharing service which already has over 8,000 members sharing regular journeys. It is funded by SEStran and supported by our constituent local authorities.

TripshareSEStran is a website that helps people link up with others who want to travel in a more environmentally-friendly manner through sharing journeys. The online database allows members to find travel companions and arrange shared journeys with other members. Membership is free and TripshareSEStran offers many advantages; reduced journey costs – up to £1,000 pa on average – – and you are helping cut traffic congestion and pollution into the bargain. If everyone shared a car journey just once a week, congestion would be reduced on average by 20 per cent.

During the current rail works, a move towards car sharing will make a significant contribution towards cutting traffic congestion and keeping Scotland moving. It’s free and confidential and there are options such as gender specific sharing and non-smoking.

For once all of us can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

• Councillor Russell Imrie is chair of SEStran www.sestran.gov.uk