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Railwatch 072 - July 1997


By David Hansen

Franchise awarded The ScotRail franchise was awarded to National Express from 1 April. Some of the old management have gone to pastures new while others remain. Let us hope the new team is soon moving forward with real developments. Some modest plans have already been announced. From the year 2000 it is intended to introduce a train every quarter hour between Edinburgh and Glasgow with the help of nine new three-car trains. Sadly these will be diesels and electrification is as far away as ever. But 38 new electric trains are to be ordered for the existing electrified network, probably to replace the last of the Glasgow Blue Trains. From next year the train service between Edinburgh and Fife will be doubled in frequency, although where the trains to do this will come from is still a mystery.

Money being spent Railtrack is planning to catch up with its maintenance backlog. The cynic might say the backlog was allowed to build up to allow announcements of increased spending after rail privatisation. Highlights are stopping rain water pouring on to passengers at Edinburgh Waverley (summer tourists do not usually see this "attraction"), repairs at Glasgow Central and restoring the Forth Bridge to its former glory. Smaller stations like Aviemore and Greenock Central will be improved. Less spectacular will be work on signalling. This spending is welcome, but will not produce big changes for customers.

Tay Bridge Railtrack proposes to single the Tay Bridge which, it is claimed, will allow the axle loading to be raised to 25 tonnes and allow faster passenger speeds, while not reducing capacity. If this is the only way to do so, it may be a good thing. However, stretches of busy single track on double track routes are not particularly safe. A series of crashes in Glasgow, as well as Cowden, have made the point that automatic train protection is needed to make busy single tracks safe. Perhaps the old-fashioned protection of trap points and a sand drag would be advisable. Can we conceive of a second Tay Bridge Disaster?

Scottish Office That great obstacle to railways in Scotland continues on its road-obsessed course. The recent Green Paper, Keeping Scotland Moving, was described best by Friends of the Earth as "not worth the paper it was printed on". We produced a detailed critique, but remain cynical about whether the Scottish Office is listening.

Passenger executive Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive has a new director and we are hoping to meet him to discuss future proposals. There is a pressing need for a passenger transport executive to cover the East of Scotland but this was dismissed by the Scottish Office in the Green Paper.

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