Transport Scotland Consultation on Scotland’s Rail Infrastructure Strategy from 2019
Why is this important for business?
- Effective connectivity is a key driver of economic growth and the better connected Scotland is, the better the opportunities will be for businesses to connect to customers and markets and to access talent and skills.
- The way Scotland’s railways are funded is changing, and greater public control over Network Rail means that its scope for borrowing will be reduced, which in turn will lead to future investment in the railways competing more directly against other public spending priorities. This could slow down the levels of rail investment that Scotland has seen in recent years.
- Transport Scotland’s consultation seeks views on how the Scottish Government should handle rail investment during the period 2019 to 2025.
What does the consultation propose?
There are a number of issues that the Scottish Government are highlighting in this consultation. These include:
- The Scottish Government intends to use this consultation as a means to reinforce its demands for further devolution of Network Rail operations to a Scottish level.
- The reduction in Network Rail’s borrowing powers will mean that more rail projects will have to be funded from direct capital spending.
- The Government will seek to make improvements through timetable and service changes first before considering infrastructure improvements.
- Any investments in infrastructure may be announced closer to the point of construction in order to make a more accurate economic case.
- Where investment is deemed necessary, this will follow a tiered list of priorities:
- Category 1: Projects carried forward from 2014-2019
- Category 2: Enhancement projects considered essential to maintain a ‘safe, high performing railway’.
- Category 3: Enhancement projects to support social and economic objectives, including potential new routes, alignments and stations.
- Category 4: Enhancement projects to increase capacity on key cross-border routes.
- Whether there are any changes needed to the way in which performance is monitored.
What information do we need from the Chamber network?
- The approach to rail investment outlined in this consultation is a signal that the days of high profile, large scale investments in Scotland’s rail network may be coming to an end. Instead of projects such as the Borders Railway, the Airdrie-Bathgate line and the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvements Project, the future for rail investment may have more of a focus on service improvements and small-scale infrastructure projects, such as signalling improvements and passing places. This may not deliver the sea change in rail infrastructure investment that the Scottish Chambers of Commerce network had previously called for, particularly in the north of Scotland.
- How might this affect the need to accommodate passenger growth in the north east of Scotland?
- How might the new infrastructure strategy affect the future roll-out of rail electrification in Scotland?
- Is it helpful to have a long term plan for rail infrastructure improvements in Scotland, or would the proposal to shorten the time between planning and delivery make the network more responsive to needs as they arise?
- Are there any specific areas where further devolution of rail powers to Scotland would be beneficial? For example, by decentralisation and the creation of a dedicated Scottish headquarters, directly under the control of the Scottish Government?
Themes for an SCC response
- Devolution – does the current devolved settlement enable the Scottish Government to manage Scotland’s rail network effectively? If not, what additional powers would be needed?
- Scale of investment – the need to rely more on direct capital budgets to fund rail investment will place rail funding in the Scottish Budget mix alongside other spending priorities. Future transport budgets must provide for the investment that businesses across all of Scotland need.
- Services vs infrastructure – can a focus on rail services meet the needs of our economy? Where are the areas where infrastructure investment is the only answer?
- Rail usage – is the rail network geared up for the projected continued increase in passenger numbers? Are we too often underestimating passenger numbers on new lines and stations?
- Making better use of rail assets – if the Government’s ambition is to encourage more rail journeys at off-peak times, does that require more investment in car parking facilities?
SCC’s Timetable of Engagement
SCC will engage with the Chamber Network to develop a common position on the Rail Infrastructure Strategy that will form the basis of our response to the Transport Scotland consultation.
27 January 2017 – Chamber network consultation launched
27 January 2017 – 6 February 2017 – Chamber network consultation
8 February 2017 – Draft consultation response circulated to Chamber network
17 February 2017 – Final SCC response agreed by Chamber network
24 February 2017 – SCC response submitted to Scottish Government
Please share your thoughts with us on the Rail Infrastructure Strategy by 5.00pm on Monday 6 February 2017. Thereafter we will share the SCC draft consultation response with you on Wednesday 8 February 2017. All correspondence should be directed to Garry Clark at email@example.com or on 0141 204 8337.