Scotland's future transport policy is electrifying
22 December 2008
Transport Scotland's Bill Reeve and Francis Duffy explain the Scottish Government's strategy to utilise its rail network to both improve business opportunities and help the government meet its carbon reduction targets
Since Transport Scotland was established in 2006 to deliver Scottish ministers' major investment programme in the country's rail and trunk road networks, it has developed into a strongly-focused transport planning and delivery organisation with the ability to attract the range of professional staff needed for these tasks.
The central aim of the Scottish Government is to create a more successful, prosperous country, with opportunities for all to flourish through sustainable economic growth. Vital to this aim is a safe and efficient transport network that helps maintain and grow the Scottish economy.
This is why Scottish ministers are already well on track to deliver £3bn worth of investment on infrastructure projects up to 2012. As the funder and specifier of Scotland's railways and trunk road network, Transport Scotland provides active leadership and sets the agenda for the ways Scotland's road and rail transport infrastructure is delivered.
An efficient, effective transport system opens up employment and business opportunities, as well as connecting communities. It can also provide a genuine travel choice, giving our communities and businesses a safe and efficient network that keeps Scotland moving. Transport Scotland is investing record amounts in roads and railway infrastructure and equipment in order to meet Scotland's existing and projected transport needs.
The Scottish High Level Output Specification (HLOS) sets out ministers' £3.6bn blueprint for railways in Scotland from 2009 to 2014, focusing on reducing journey times, increasing capacity and meeting rising passenger and rail freight demand and expectations. The ambitious programme is aiming to provide capacity for 23% passenger growth by 2014, and our strategy for meeting this growth includes major infrastructure projects, together with other rolling stock improvements and incremental enhancements such as planned capacity improvements on the Highland Main Line and the Glasgow to Kilmarnock route.
This significant investment means that as our building work across Scotland progresses, we will be enhancing railway services across the country. We continue to focus on ways to use improvements to our existing networks that ensure we provide an efficient and valued service. This includes looking at interventions that could offer significant capacity or journey time benefits.
We are currently about halfway through our current rail enhancement programme – worth almost £1bn – which has already seen the completion of the Edinburgh Waverley upgrade and the reopening of the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine route. Work on the Airdrie-Bathgate line and the Glasgow Airport Rail Link is well under way. We have also recently announced our plans for taking forward the reopening of the Borders rail link following the transfer of delivery powers for the project from the Waverley Rail Partnership to Transport Scotland.
In September 2007, the Scottish Government announced its intention to electrify the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line and associated routes. This ambitious, exciting programme of works – including a public transport interchange linking Edinburgh Airport with the rest of the Scottish rail network – will revolutionise the busy rail network in central Scotland and make a real difference to the economic opportunities available to communities and businesses across central Scotland.
Rail plays a vital role across the country, but particularly so in the west of Scotland, which has the largest suburban rail network outside London. It is therefore vital that we work now with the rest of the industry to deliver a long-term solution to cater for a growing passenger market. Just as capacity at Edinburgh Waverley was a major spur to the enhancements there, we plan to investigate emerging capacity issues at both of Glasgow's terminal stations over the next decade.
We have always recognised the potential of electrification in our strategy, partly because key routes – most of the Glasgow network and both of the main cross-border lines – are already wired, creating major opportunities for better fleet utilisation by building on this base.
We are confident that the electrification of the Edinburgh-Glasgow route will be just the beginning, providing the basis for a rolling programme that will see more of the Scottish network electrified over the coming decade with the majority of rail passenger journeys in Scotland made in electric rolling stock.
Responding to climate change is a priority for the Scottish Government, and Transport Scotland's Sustainable Rail Programme will contribute to the government's commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80%. Rail transport has long been regarded as one of the less environmentally damaging modes of mechanised transport; however, there is wide recognition that the rail industry has its part to play in helping meet government targets for reducing greenhouse gases and environmental impact.
Railways can help in two ways: by transferring freight and passengers to rail from more polluting forms of transport and by taking measures to improve the energy-efficiency and reduce emissions of rail vehicles. This is one of the main drivers in Transport Scotland's electrification programme.
The Scottish Government is committed to improving the quality of the passenger experience. There is strong evidence that passengers prefer electric trains. These trains are generally quieter, have less on-board vibration, are more reliable.
Electric trains also have a number of key benefits over diesel. They are lighter, and have faster acceleration and braking, meaning that there are fewer emissions and journeys are faster. Regenerative braking provides a further opportunity to save on energy.
Carbon emissions from electric trains are currently at least 25% less than emissions from equivalent diesel trains. This is achieved through a combination of an electric train's regenerative braking system and the proportion of carbon-free electricity generation in the national grid energy mix. The relative carbon savings from electric trains will further increase where there is an increase in the proportion of carbon-free and low-carbon electricity in the national grid energy mix.
Transport Scotland recognises that being able to transport goods efficiently and reliably is critical for business success. The Scottish Government fully supports the transfer of freight from road to rail and operates the Freight Facilities Grants and Rail Environmental Benefits Procurement Schemes in Scotland to encourage this modal shift.
There has been a marked increase in the amount of freight lifted in Scotland, with a 30% rise in the last year alone. With a 33% expected increase over the next 20 years we can and must achieve more. We need to look carefully at the barriers that may exist to achieving a greater modal shift.
The interdependent structure of the rail industry makes it impractical to have localised sustainable development policies and action plans so the collective rail industry, government and rail industry groups got together to launch the Sustainable Rail Programme (SRP) in December 2005.
Transport Scotland is part of this Sustainable Rail Programme and is thus able to influence the sustainable development of the rail industry. During 2006 a strategy and route map of how to get there was developed and, since then, the SRP has been in an implementation stage delivering substantial emissions savings whilst refining and continuing to develop the strategy.
Through making improvements to the rail services or providing a concessionary travel scheme for the older generation and those with disabilities, we hope that using public transport becomes more and more of an attractive option for the travelling public.
However, this does not mean that we can overlook the trunk road network, which is fundamental in linking Scotland's cities and rural communities. Looking to the future, before the end of the year Scottish ministers are expected to announce the outcome of the Strategic Transport Projects Review, a future programme of nationally significant measures and initiatives that support the government's aim of achieving sustainable economic growth. The STPR identifies nationally significant transport interventions that best contribute to achieving this from 2012 and beyond.
There is much work to be done to keep Scotland moving. This is an exciting time for Scottish transport and it is a privilege to be part of the team helping meet the challenge of delivering a world-class transport network for Scotland.