Last chance to save rail services say SAYLSA

First Group currently run the Scotrail franchise.
First Group currently run the Scotrail franchise.

There are just ten days left to save direct rail services between Carrick, Wigtownshire and Glasgow which are planned to be all but axed.

Incoming ScotRail franchisee Abellio plans a major shake up of rail services in December.

Under the proposals there will be only one through train in either direction via Paisley, a service leaving Stranraer after 9pm at night, and at other times passengers will need to change trains at Ayr.

Direct trains to Glasgow and the south west have been operating through Carrick since 1877 and prior to that services reached Stranraer via Lockerbie and Dumfries when the railway first reached Stranraer in 1861.

The timetable planning process means that Friday March 6th is the day that ScotRail must bid to Network Rail on their proposals for the Winter 2015 timetable change that comes into effect in December.

Currently the plan is for there to be an hourly service to Girvan and Maybole from Ayr and every two hours this would be extended to Barrhill and Stranraer.

The issue for the Partnership is not the new frequency between Stranraer/Girvan and Ayr, but that north of Ayr all but one service will travel to Kilmarnock.

South of Girvan less than 3% of passengers travel to Kilmarnock but well over 40% travel to or through Glasgow.

The Partnership is seeking three return services a day between Stranraer and Glasgow at times to suit both the needs of communities and visitors to the region.

It fully accepts that at other times a shuttle service to Ayr and Kilmarnock will suffice.

A spokesman for SAYLSA said: “If enacted the new timetable will mean that the south west will become the only geographical region in lowland Scotland not to be directly connected to the Central Belt, an irony in the year that the Borders are re-connected to Edinburgh, and half a century on since Galloway lost its 70 mile link between Dumfries and Stranraer axed under the Beeching cuts of the mid 1960s.

“In January elected members of both Dumfries & Galloway Councils Wigtown Area Committee and Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee supported proposals put forward by Scotlands first Community Rail Partnership to seek a rethink on the Abellio plan and rejected the idea of losing all but one of the region’s direct rail links.

“The Dutch company had submitted its proposals as part of the ScotRail re-franchising process in response to the ScotRail franchise document drawn up by the Scottish Governments transport agency Transport Scotland in which as an alternative, direct services to and from Glasgow need not be provided so long as there were more than the fifteen services to Girvan and the six to Stranraer currently in operation.

“In 2012 in response to consultations on future rail services under the new ScotRail franchise, respondents had overwhelmingly rejected changes of trains in lieu of direct services.

“Yet despite this objection Transport Scotland ignored this but only in respect of the Stranraer line.

“Towns in England that have lost direct rail services to London like Barrow and Grimsby have struggled economically ever since and there are concerns that Stranraer, Girvan, and Maybole already ranked in the top eight of the most vulnerable settlements in Scotland, will be further disadvantaged by these plans.

“Elected members had sought a meeting with the Scottish Transport Minister to voice their opposition to the proposals and SAYLSA had raised their concerns with Transport Scotland as far back as the summer of 2014 when they were given assurances in writing from Transport Scotland that there would be opportunities to do so before a final decision was made.

“As yet the meeting requested to make the case for retention has not been forthcoming giving the impression that the wishes of the community are being ignored.”

SAYLSA is offering free rail tickets to Glasgow for people who complete a survey - visit the SAYLSA website for details.