News this week that a new operator will take over the next ScotRail franchise means a brighter future for rail services in Wigtownshire.
That is the claim made by SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Aileen McLeod, who said the awarding of the Scotrail franchise to Abellio will see specific commitments to the Stranraer-Ayr line.
This is likely to include support for community rail partnerships, services between Stranraer and Ayr every two hours and the introduction of a Scenic Railway Service on the line to attract visitors.
Commenting after Tuesday’s ministerial statement on the franchise by Transport Minister Keith Brown, Aileen said: “This announcement contains a number of measures which are good news for Stranraer and the Stranraer-Ayr line, including the commitment to Community Rail Partnerships, of which SAYLSA is the first in the country.
“As someone who uses the line regularly, I am particularly pleased to see the commitment to services every two hours since there is at the moment, for example, a gap of over three hours between the two morning trains and an even bigger gap in the afternoon. I hope that this, along with last year’s 48% reduction in the fare will help to boost passenger numbers.
“I am particularly pleased to see the announcement of the Scenic Rail Service, which will operate using refurbished trains with the aim of increasing tourism and visitor numbers along the line and to Stranraer itself.
“When the possibility of running tourist trains on the new Borders rail line was first raised, I wrote to Keith Brown to ask him to consider the potential for similar services on the Stranraer line. I am convinced there is great potential to use such services to attract many more visitors to Stranraer and the Rhins, with all the area has to offer.
“I am delighted therefore to see today that a scenic rail service will indeed be introduced on the Stranraer line and I very much hope that it will prove a major draw, attracting visitors to Stranraer and the surrounding area.”
The new franchise length is a minimum of seven years from 1 April 2015.