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Railwatch 072 - July 1997

So much to do

The New Labour government has already promised a new approach to railways and transport in general.

There are certainly many rail schemes waiting to be given the go-ahead.

Some have been held up for the past few years by the re-organisation surrounding privatisation.

Now is the time time to look positively at cost-effective rail schemes which could transform conditions for rail travellers and give car drivers the opportunity to help themselves and us by using their cars less and public transport transport more.

With Gavin Strang now Transport Minister in the Cabinet, Scotland should get its fair share of rail improvements.

RDS has selected 15 rail schemes which would improve the competitiveness of Scotland and help achieve a sustainable society.

Number one scheme in Scotland is electrification of the Edinburgh-Aberdeen-Glasgow triangle.

Other schemes include Dornoch rail crossing, Glasgow CrossRail, airport links, Edinburgh suburban, Galashiels, freight terminals, reopened coal routes, port links, piggyback routes, suburban electrification, upgraded rural lines, and completion of the Airdrie-Bathgate missing link.

At the other end of Britain, a national rail authority is necessary to bring about improvements to the Coastway line (see below) which cuts through the territory of five train operating companies and three Railtrack zones.

Equally in the London area, vision - rather than a drive for short-term profit - is needed to see the benefits of linking rail networks north and south of the River Thames via a tunnel at Woolwich.

Throughout the country many other rail projects are waiting to be given the go-ahead, particularly the East-West rail scheme.

The London scheme

One of the London schemes which would have far-reaching effects is the construction of a rail tunnel at Woolwich which could link railways separated by the River Thames. It would mean, for instance, people wanting to get from Hertfordshire or Essex to Kent would not have to travel through congested central London. It would also provide rail links into Channel Tunnel fast link services at Ebbsfleet. Ebbsfleet would have a far better future if more effort was put into making it a rail nodal point rather than a vast car park as operators try to profit from it as a park-and-ride centre. The £200 million cost of building a rail tunnel is tremendous value considering that £400 million was spent in London Docklands to build ONE MILE of the Limehouse link road which has brought terrible pollution and safety problems.

The Coastway scheme

The Coastway scheme could link up several local lines and connect them into a south coast rail line. One of its major benefits would be to give good rail connections to Channel Tunnel services.

Ironically the Channel Tunnel has been used as an excuse for widescale road building whereas the railways linking to it have been deliberately starved of investment. Massive damage to the environment in Kent has resulted from road development associated with the Channel Tunnel. If the focus had been on improving rail links for both passengers and freight, more of the countryside would have been protected.

Scottish schemes

There are 15 priority schemes in Scotland which have been queuing up for approval. Railways are cleaner, quieter, more energy efficient, faster, safer, and more environmentally friendly than any other form of transport for a wide range of journeys.

If you would like a copy of the Scottish 15 leaflet or more information about any of the schemes, please contact David Hansen, 2 Clark Road, Inver-keithing, Fife KY11 1AW. Email: david.hansen@almac.co.uk

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.


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