On Friday 23 September, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) published a report setting out its vision for the future of Scotland’s railways called “Investing in the Future: Choices for Scotland’s Railways 2019 and beyond”. The report is presented as a ‘starting point for discussions with the Scottish Government and the public’ on the future of the railway and is the work of many parties from the rail industry, including Network Rail, ScotRail, and cross-border passenger and freight operators.
The report is intended to support the Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy and National Transport Strategy and has been timed to inform the Scottish Government’s high level output specification for the five-year period starting in April 2019, which specification is expected to be published as part of the ORR’s 2018 Periodic Review.
The RDG notes that a major programme of investment in infrastructure and rolling stock funded by the Scottish Government will be delivered over the next two and a half years, to mid-2019. The RDG’s view is that Scotland needs an efficient transport network that can adapt to the high demand for passenger rail services and the changing rail freight market – continued improvements are vital, but limited availability of capital funding is anticipated in the short to medium term meaning that an integrated transport policy is essential.
The report sets out a number of investment options together with suggested funding strategies. The options are recommended as the best to deliver value for money and efficiency and include investment in key stations such as Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley, reduced journey times, and an increase in the quantity and length of passenger trains running between Scotland’s main cities.
The RDG recognises the challenges the rail industry will likely face in the future such as understanding passenger priorities and using rail to drive environmental improvements. The report offers some suggestions as to how these can be tackled; primarily by building a collaborative approach between all parties.
The RDG plan to build upon the issues raised in this report in its more detailed report “Initial Industry Advice (IIA) to Scottish Ministers” expected in early 2017, which they hope will continue to inform Scottish Government rail policy.