Call for upgrade of key rail junction at Carstairs

Trains forced to slow to a crawl include Virgin Trains' services between Edinburgh and Birmingham. Picture: PA
Trains forced to slow to a crawl include Virgin Trains' services between Edinburgh and Birmingham. Picture: PA
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CAMPAIGNERS Transform Scotland today called for the upgrade of a key rail junction at Carstairs where express trains have had to slow to 15mph for nearly 40 years.

The group urged rail regulators to approve work on the “key bottleneck” in South Lanarkshire where cross-Border trains to and from Edinburgh join the west coast main line.

Raising the speed limit to 40-50mph would cut journeys by five minutes.

Trains forced to slow to a crawl include Virgin Trains’ services between Edinburgh and Birmingham, and CrossCountry’s between Glasgow and south west England via Edinburgh. Virgin’s Glasgow-London expresses are also slowed.

Transform Scotland wants the Office of Rail Regulation to permit track owner Network Rail to do the work within six years - fearing it may be delayed until the Scottish Government’s plans for an Edinburgh-Glasgow high-speed line.

Transform Scotland spokesman Paul Tetlaw said: “The junction at Carstairs has suffered from severe speed restrictions for more than a generation.

“It is simply unacceptable that trains on one of Britain’s key long-distance routes are slowed to a crawl.

“This should be a top priority project and must not be deferred by any plans for a new higher-speed line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, such as those proposed by the Scottish Government late last year.

“These plans are merely at a proposal state and are likely to take a decade or more to come to fruition.

“Making improvements now to the key rail route between Glasgow and London must take precedence over tentative plans that would benefit rail travellers only in the long-term.”

Chris Gibb, chief operating officer at Virgin Trains, said: “Enhancement of Carstairs junction is a key element in a package of measures designed to accelerate Anglo-Scottish journey times over the next 20 years.

“The junction was designed in the 1970s to facilitate a timetable that disappeared more than 20 years ago. It simply isn’t able to cope adequately with the demands placed on it by today’s services, much less our aspirations to improve cross-border connections.”

The Office of Rail Regulation said it was assessing responses to its draft plan for funding rail improvements between 2014 and 2019, and would publish the final version next month.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said “The Scottish Government remains in discussion with the Department for Transport (DfT), Office of rail Regulation and Network Rail regarding the appropriate funding of proposals for Carstairs, where the principal beneficiaries from the investment would be DfT-sponsored [train operating] franchises.

“Longer-term Scottish Government plans for a high-speed rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh will not affect these discussions.”