Rail proposals attacked

Calls have been made for the Scottish government to withdraw controversial proposals in its consultation into the future of Scotland’s railways.

The proposals contained within the Rail 2014 consultation have led to fears of a “two-tier” railway, which would see areas such as Dumfries and Galloway lose out compared to the central belt.

The government’s plans include: 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; and increasing scheduled journey times to allow more trains to be classed as arriving on time.

Following the submission of his response to the consultation, Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “In my response to the consultation, I made it clear that the plans pose a real threat to rail services in Dumfries and Galloway.

“I fear that the proposal to create a two-tier railway, by hiving off the most profitable parts, will leave areas such as Dumfries and Galloway facing cuts. By changing the way performance is measured on rural routes, like those in our region, compared to the busier parts of the network, the government is saying some parts of the railway are more important than others. This is effectively downgrading services local people here receive.

“The plans will give the new train operating company an incentive to spend its money in the central belt at the expense of our trains and stations. If the SNP gets its way the result will be more delays and cancellations for local people.”

And Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said: “These are deeply flawed proposals that will hit Dumfries and Galloway hard. The two issues that rail passengers constantly tell me matter to them most are reliability and price, and it is astounding that the SNP has come up with a plan that fails on both counts.

“It is verging on farcical that the SNP’s solution to delays and cancellations is to play with the timetable to increase journey times. Rather than letting ScotRail off the hook by relaxing the rules, passengers want to see the government driving up performance. I want the government to go back to the drawing board and work with passengers to come up with a sensible vision for our railways. My message is clear: the SNP must put passengers first rather than the big train companies.”