Scot­tish rail’s up­ward curve.

The Rail De­liv­ery Group’s ini­tial in­dus­try ad­vice of­fers guid­ance on the projects that need to be for­warded, and the var­ied ways in which they can be funded. PHILIP HAIGH re­ports

Rail (UK) - - Contents - Philip Haigh Con­tribut­ing Writer rail@bauer­me­dia.co.uk

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“RDG’s ini­tial in­dus­try ad­vice recog­nises that to at­tract money, the railway must be­come trusted to de­liver projects, and it ad­mits that it must learn les­sons from the cur­rent trou­bled pro­gramme.”

SCOT­LAND’S railway is wit­ness­ing con­sid­er­able im­prove­ments. There’s around £1.8 bil­lion of in­vest­ment flow­ing into tracks and trains, with new fleets and elec­tri­fi­ca­tion as well as im­prove­ments to the High­land Main Line and else­where.

And from June 2018, ScotRail will bring in a new timetable that adds 200 ex­tra daily ser­vices and faster, lim­ited-stop ser­vices be­tween Ed­in­burgh and Glas­gow and to In­ver­ness and Aberdeen.

Th­ese changes will pro­vide a bet­ter ser­vice for to­day’s pas­sen­gers and are likely to gen­er­ate more in the fu­ture. There’s likely to be con­sid­er­able ap­petite to con­tinue im­prov­ing the railway net­work north of the bor­der.

With a sub­stan­tial elec­tri­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme un­der way, ScotRail and Net­work Rail are well-placed to help the Scot­tish Govern­ment de­liver its com­mit­ment to cut CO emis­sions by at least 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

Even then, the most en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly travel op­tion is to not travel at all. That could in­volve work­ing from home for those that can, even if only on some days of the week. How­ever, rail fares do not make this easy, with sea­son tick­ets op­ti­mised for full-time travel to work. Nor does the railway op­ti­mise the way it runs trains - de­mand varies with morn­ing and evening peaks, but many trains run in fixed for­ma­tions all day.

In its ini­tial in­dus­try ad­vice (IIA) to the Scot­tish Govern­ment, the Rail De­liv­ery Group (RDG) notes that Ed­in­burgh-He­lens­burgh trains via Air­drie and Bath­gate run in six-car for­ma­tions all day.

In CO terms, that’s over 4,500 tonnes per year, while costs are £2 mil­lion a year more than they might be if train for­ma­tions were bet­ter tai­lored to de­mand. How­ever, the fixed six-car trains are op­er­a­tionally eas­ier, and this re­mains an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion when there’s pres­sure on punc­tu­al­ity.

If noth­ing else, this ex­am­ple shows the choices, com­pro­mises and de­ci­sions faced by Scot­land’s Govern­ment as it con­sid­ers what it wants from the railway over the five years of Con­trol Pe­riod 6 from 2019. Good trans­port links help peo­ple reach work, and they help goods to be moved be­tween fac­to­ries and con­sumers. Rail works well in mass mar­kets, whether that’s thou­sands of peo­ple trav­el­ling into a city cen­tre, hun­dreds of con­tain­ers from a port, or thou­sands of tonnes of stone from a quarry.

Scot­land’s railway is char­ac­terised by an in­ten­sively used net­work around Glas­gow, with busy cor­ri­dors to Ed­in­burgh and to­wards Stir­ling. Longer routes link this Cen­tral Belt north­wards to Aberdeen and In­ver­ness. Then there are im­por­tant (but slower and qui­eter) routes to re­moter towns such as Fort Wil­liam, Oban, Mal­laig, Wick, Thurso and Kyle of Lochalsh.

There is no short­age of projects to fur­ther im­prove the railway (see panel), but the RDG’s IIA is sug­gest­ing that they be de­vel­oped in a dif­fer­ent way to pre­vi­ous Con­trol Pe­ri­ods so that de­ci­sions on de­tailed spec­i­fi­ca­tions do not have to be made be­fore a ro­bust busi­ness case ex­ists.

RDG ad­vises that en­hance­ments are se­quen­tially de­vel­oped in a pipeline, which should pre­vent the prob­lems en­coun­tered in CP5 (2014-19), when a glut of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion projects over­whelmed Net­work Rail and the sup­ply in­dus­try’s ca­pa­bil­ity.

IIA pro­poses a se­ries of busi­ness cases. En­hance­ments would start with a strate­gic out­line busi­ness case mak­ing the case for the project and ex­plain­ing how it con­trib­utes to the Scot­tish Govern­ment’s ob­jec­tives. Suc­cess would lead to an out­line scheme be­ing de­vel­oped, and an out­line busi­ness case on which a com­mit­ment to de­sign the pre­ferred op­tion would rest.

Fi­nally comes a full busi­ness case that con­firms the value for money of the pre­ferred op­tion and pro­vides an engi­neer­ing de­sign that gives de­fin­i­tive costs, tim­ings, re­sources and risks. Com­mit­ment here comes at an agreed price and level of risk.

RDG ex­pects fund­ing for any projects to come from more than one source, rather than the tra­di­tional model of the Govern­ment pro­vid­ing the money. This is partly be­cause it ex­pects Govern­ment to have less money to spend on the railway, but also be­cause de­vo­lu­tion is ex­pected to shift money else­where - for ex­am­ple, to City Deals. RDG’s IIA recog­nises that to at­tract money, the railway must be­come trusted

to de­liver projects, and it ad­mits that it must learn les­sons from the cur­rent trou­bled pro­gramme.

Money could also come from Sec­tion 75 con­tri­bu­tions (from de­vel­op­ers and which is called Sec­tion 106 con­tri­bu­tions in Eng­land and Wales). This has al­ready yielded sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing for new sta­tions at Kin­tore and Ro­broys­ton, ac­cord­ing to RDG.

How­ever, the group notes that de­vel­op­ers are not likely to pro­vide sup­port as strong as that found around Lon­don. It also ad­vises that the Scot­tish Govern­ment may need to de­fine some fi­nan­cial and strate­gic pri­or­i­ties if third-party money is to be at­tracted to rail. In other words, the Govern­ment will need to show com­mit­ment if it’s to ex­pect sim­i­lar from third par­ties.

Such fund­ing need not just sup­port Net­work Rail’s cof­fers, it might also go to­wards ScotRail’s ser­vices.

RDG uses as an ex­am­ple the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and im­prove­ments to the Shotts line (the fourth cor­ri­dor be­tween Ed­in­burgh and Glas­gow - the oth­ers run via Carstairs, Air­drie and Pol­mont). Th­ese make pos­si­ble a more fre­quent ser­vice than ScotRail’s con­tract re­quires. Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties could con­trib­ute to the costs of run­ning more trains by us­ing coun­cil tax re­ceipts col­lected from new houses built to take ad­van­tage of the bet­ter railway, RDG sug­gests.

The RDG’s list of en­hance­ments could be mis­taken for a shop­ping list of what the railway wants to see. The largest sec­tion is the cat­e­gory la­belled as projects es­sen­tial to main­tain a safe and high-per­form­ing railway. None of the projects within it are specif­i­cally for safety, so there’s con­sid­er­able scope for the Scot­tish Govern­ment to de­cide not to pro­ceed with them.

Ca­pac­ity can be de­liv­ered by us­ing longer trains that might need longer plat­forms, rather than by build­ing new tracks to cope with more fre­quent trains. Even if fre­quen­cies do in­crease, a price paid in poorer punc­tu­al­ity might be more ac­cept­able than one paid in money to re­model pinch-points if cash is tight.

Th­ese choices will need to be cap­tured in busi­ness cases to bet­ter ex­plain them. Test­ing each po­ten­tial project against the Scot­tish Govern­ment’s poli­cies will show clearly whether they de­serve tax­pay­ers’ money. It also makes the railway more than ever un­der govern­ment con­trol, 20 years af­ter Bri­tish Rail ran its fi­nal train in Scot­land as the net­work was pri­va­tised. Whether a pri­vate track owner and pri­vate train op­er­a­tors would con­struct the same list as RDG re­mains an in­ter­est­ing, but largely aca­demic, ques­tion.

Those in­ter­ested in Scot­land’s railway will dis­cover what the Govern­ment wants this sum­mer, when it pub­lishes its High Level Out­put Spec­i­fi­ca­tion. They should also dis­cover how much the Govern­ment is pre­pared to pay.

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