SNP FORCED TO CLIMB DOWN ON RAIL PLANS, BUT CONCERN REMAINS ABOUT FURTHER HIKES IN RAIL FARES
“DANGEROUS PRECEDENT” SET BY SNP’S PROPOSALS TO LEAVE D&G WITH SECOND CLASS RAIL SERVICE
Local Labour politicians have said that the SNP Government have been “forced to climb down” from their plans for a two-tier railway, that would have seen our region’s rail service downgraded. However, they cite fears that prolonged underinvestment could create a second class rail service “by the backdoor”.
Last year the SNP published proposals for the new ScotRail franchise, which would have led to a ‘two tier’ railway, where rural areas like Dumfries and Galloway would be expected to see a reduced quality of service as money was redirected towards the central belt. (1)
However, after an outcry from local people and businesses across Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown announced that the Government has u-turned on many of the proposals. During a statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Thursday) he said that plans to split the franchise into two units had been dropped.
Reacting to the announcement, Dumfriesshire MSP and Labour’s Shadow Transport Spokeswomen, Elaine Murray, said:
“The SNP have been forced to climb down from their ludicrous proposals for a two-tier railway. They would have been devastating for rail services in Dumfries and Galloway and it shows how out of touch the Government is that they even proposed it in the first place.
“I am deeply concerned that the SNP are refusing to be clear about rail fares. This will raise fears of further dramatic increases in the fares hard-pressed local people have to pay. At the start of this year commuters between Dumfries and Glasgow saw an annual price hike of up to £400 and they simply can’t take any more. What was disturbingly absent during the Minister’s statement was any concrete measure to protect passengers from future fare hikes.”
The Scottish Government have said that they will spend £30 million on developing stations (2). Elaine Murray will be campaigning for some of it to be used to re-open stations at Eastriggs and Thornhill, saying:
“The re-opening of Eastriggs and Thornhill train stations is long overdue. Dumfries and Galloway has missed out on so much investment under this Scottish Government and I want to make sure some of the station development fund is spent here. Improving our region’s transport network means making sure local communities have access to train stations.”
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said that he remains worried about the future of Stranraer railway station. He says that the fact the Scottish Government ever thought a “second class service” for our area would be acceptable sets a “dangerous precedent”. He said:
“The only reason the SNP have dropped their outrageous plans to downgrade our local rail service is because of the huge public outcry it caused. The fact they ever thought leaving us with a second class service would be acceptable sets a dangerous precedent and shows they aren’t interested in improving local services. While we have stopped the SNP from making the problems at Stranraer even worse with their two tier railway plans, I am still concerned that we will get that by the backdoor because of prolong underinvestment in the station. The Transport Minister has said little to reassure me that he is committed to fighting for the future of the station.”
Reacting to Keith Brown’s comments in his statement to Parliament about the temporary reduction in rail fares from Stranraer (3), Russell Brown said:
“While any reduction in the rail fares between Stranraer and Glasgow is welcome, the reality is that this is only for two months, after which they will go back to their sky high normal price. This reduction for a couple of months is a sticking plaster for the huge problems facing Stranraer’s rail line. The fares need to be cut permanently and we need a more regular, faster service.”
CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856
1. The Scottish Government published their consultation document, Rail 2014, into the new ScotRail franchise in November last year. Their plans included:
- splitting the franchise into two units, one for the profitable parts of the railway and one for the routes that require subsidy.
- changing the performance monitoring process to take into account the number of passengers affected by delays and cancellations as well as the economic consequences, rather than treating all train passengers equally.
- increasing scheduled journey times to allow more trains to be classed as arriving on time.
The consequence of these changes would have been to create a ‘two-tier’ railway, that would have see investment re-directed towards the central belt and result in cuts to train services in our region.
However, due to overwhelming public outcry the Scottish Transport Minister Kieth Brown announced yesterday (Thursday) that these plans had been dropped.
2. £30 million will be spent on a ‘Scottish Stations Fund’, which is intended to ‘improve the public’s access to railway services’. The funded is expected to support the opening of new stations, however there is no information yet as to where these will be.
There have been long running campaigns to re-open the train stations at Eastriggs and Thornhill.
Link - http://www.
3. In his statement to the Scottish Parliament, Keith Brown spoke about the temporary fare reduction from Stranraer train station. However, the Minister failed to mention that the reduced fares will only run in August and September, with tickets then returning to full price.
“We will also look to the next franchisee to increase passenger numbers through innovative fares packages – building on the Stranraer promotion where fares will be reduced by 65%.”
Link – http://www.