Rail Industry Focus

01.11.12

EGIP: ‘A shadow of its former self’?

Source: Rail Technology Magazine October/November 2012

Amy Hirst reports on the recent Holyrood debate on EGIP – and whether the lost £350m constitutes cuts or savings.

In July, the revised Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) was announced – with £350m funding less than the £1bn originally pledged.

Scottish Labour has attacked the Scottish Government for cutting the funding, which it says could impact on jobs and growth in the region. But the SNP has maintained that the scheme will provide improved capacity and reliability, whilst reducing carbon emissions.

The Government took the decision following a technical review of the scheme by Jacobs, it says.

EGIP will see a range of railway infrastructure improvements and electrification between Scotland’s two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, which will reduce journey times by ten minutes. Greater capacity will be introduced on the Edinburgh – Falkirk High – Glasgow Queen Street line.

However, the July announcement revealed that service frequency will not be able to be what was promised, though longer trains should still improve capacity.

Furthermore, electrification of routes from Stirling to Dunblane has been deferred to an unspecified date. Other promises no longer part of the funded proposals include more services at Croy and the Garngad Chord, which would allow Cumbernauld line services to be diverted to the North Clyde line.

Describing the changes to EGIP plans, the SNP Government said savings of over £300m would be provided, after ministers “updated the original project based on changes to the network and new opportunities to transform Queen Street”.

But Elaine Murray, Labour’s transport spokeswoman in the Scottish Parliament, said during a debate at Holyrood: “Plans for six electric trains per hour between Edinburgh and Glasgow have been downgraded to four diesel trains.”

She said that of the 200 miles of track meant to be electrified, only half was committed for 2014-2019, meaning the whole scheme was just “shadow of its former self”.

Financial mismanagement?

Neil Findlay, Labour MSP for Lothian, also raised concerns about rail industry jobs. He said that many of his constituents were worried that a station, set to create hundreds of jobs in his constituency, is to be scrapped.

And Richard Baker, the shadow infrastructure secretary, said: “This revelation is further evidence that the cuts to EGIP were not about delivering the scheme more efficiently but were simply about saving money.”

Other opposition parties have blamed the Government’s financial mismanagement for the dilemma. Jim Hume, for the Liberal Democrats, added: “The Scottish Government has made a pig’s ear of this. It’s frustrating to learn that £350m may have been cut from the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme because of the Government’s financial ineptitude.”

Electrification

Under the new plans, Edinburgh to Glasgow via Carstairs services will be introduced in December 2012, a year earlier than anticipated. Jamie Hepburn, SNP MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, told Holyrood: “My constituents in Cumbernauld are absolutely delighted to see that the line to their town will be electrified.”

Transport minister Keith Brown has also pointed out further benefits that have already come from the EGIP. He stated that seven new stations and 38 new trains have brought greater access to education, leisure and jobs for many people.

He asked a Labour MSP: “Perhaps she could say where the £350m that the Labour Party says that it intends to reinstate would come from.”

Environmental benefits

Transport Scotland has stated that there will be environmental benefits to the EGIP. They have claimed that approximately 60,000 car journeys will be cut annually, reducing vehicle emissions and congestion. In particular, it is thought that pressure will be reduced on the green belt area in Edinburgh.

Typically, an electric train emits 20% to 35% less carbon per passenger mile than a diesel train. Electric trains also have zero emissions at the point of use, which is of particular benefit for air quality.

Transport Scotland has said that EGIP will encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport once passengers see the benefits of less congestion. It is also thought that this could reduce car crashes by ten accidents per year.

The initiative will also be cyclist friendly, with stations supplying bike storage and making commutes more accessible for cyclists.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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