They have stretched out partly because of more stops – does Polmont really merit a gold-plated service? But also because trains now crawl into the platforms at walking pace. Several minutes could be shaved off each round-trip by installing automatic approach controls, which are seen at the Birmingham Airport driverless shuttle.
This could easily be incorporated in the upcoming modernisation of Queen Street station. At a public consultation there, I reminded Network Rail staff of the Dowty wagon retarders, simple hydraulic pistons, which made automatic hump-shunting possible in the new 1960s marshalling yards. They were too young to have heard of it!
A more sophisticated version, ideally including the slow descent of the inclined tunnel, would bring trains to a precise halt at a rate limited only by the comfort of standing passengers.
Could Scotland be a world leader in rail innovation once more?