Scotland: The nation to watch

As the Scottish Government and its industry partners continue to fund the best railway the country has ever had, Humza Yousaf, minister for transport and the Islands, runs through the latest updates of the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP).

The coming months are going to be a really exciting time on the EGIP.

With testing of the new Class 385 electric fleet already well underway, it won’t be too long until passengers benefit from this flagship investment in Scotland’s railway infrastructure.

The key aims underpinning EGIP are simple: increasing capacity on Scotland’s busiest rail corridor, delivering journey time reductions and reducing the transport carbon footprint. At the heart of this programme is a key deliverable: a faster journey time of 42 minutes between Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres, a target ministers continue to push the industry to achieve by December 2018.

Energisation of the new Edinburgh to Glasgow overhead line began in September, and final testing of the trains on the new infrastructure should be underway as you are reading this. This will be followed by the phased introduction of the £370m fleet of purpose-built Class 385s, manufactured by Hitachi Rail Europe, largely at its Newton Aycliffe facility.

This new rolling stock will provide 26% more seats when seven-car trains operate and 44% more seats when eight-cars start to run between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The introduction of modern and efficient electric rolling stock will enable a cleaner, greener and quieter railway with lower carbon emissions. Scotland’s commuters and tourists will welcome the additional capacity and enhanced facilities. Leisure travellers will undoubtedly be attracted by improvements in service choice. Business users will enjoy faster journey times on modern, attractive and more energy-efficient trains, complete with wi-fi throughout.

This will build upon previous infrastructure upgrades, as the EGIP has already successfully delivered the electrification of Haymarket Tunnel and the introduction of new hourly services on the Edinburgh–Glasgow Central via Shotts Line, as well as new Edinburgh–Glasgow Central via Carstairs services. Bridge improvements like Carseview and Shore Road in Stirling, Hope Street in Falkirk and Cardowan Road at Stepps are already bringing welcome improvements in road safety and linking communities.

In addition, EGIP has delivered, on time and within budget, the transformed Haymarket station; it has seen the Cumbernauld Line electrified and the opening of the new Edinburgh Gateway interchange station. These enhancements act as a useful indicator of what has still to come in terms of the radical modernisation of Queen Street station. Once complete, the redeveloped station will deliver a fully accessible, modern transport facility that better serves the needs of passengers and the city while also facilitating longer train formations. 

It is acknowledged that the Class 385s are being delivered later than initially planned, however the ScotRail Alliance is focused on ensuring they are fully tested before they are introduced to service, to ensure that passengers get all the significant benefits these new trains will bring. Scotland already has a high-performing railway – the best-performing large network in Britain. We believe passengers would prefer the industry focuses on maintaining high service reliability during the introduction of the new fleet, mindful that teething troubles can occur with new rolling stock – especially if testing is not thorough enough.

With major infrastructure improvements all but delivered and ScotRail providing the best passenger satisfaction amongst large operators, this could well be the nation to watch as this Scottish Government, together with our industry partners, continues to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.




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