OPIN­ION

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS - GOR­DON CASELY HER­ALD STRAT­EGY LTD Gor­don Casely is a free­lance jour­nal­ist who runs his own firm, Her­ald Strat­egy Ltd. He spe­cialises in rail and in­fra­struc­ture.

When a re­port in­volv­ing a rail in­vest­ment of £200 mil­lion runs to a thump­ing 75 pages, I’d ex­pect en­cour­ag­ing out­comes...point­ers to en­hanced travel, or a vi­sion of shap­ing our rail sys­tem for the bet­ter.

Or even – to quote the mantra end­lessly trot­ted out by Trans­port Scot­land – how we’re ‘go­ing to build the best rail­way Scot­land’s ever had’.

Yet the sole out­come I glean from this heavy­weight study from Trans­port Scot­land is that train times from Aberdeen to the cen­tral belt could have two min­utes shaved off sched­ules.

The re­port opens so en­cour­ag­ingly, with the as­pi­ra­tion that for £200 mil­lion we pas­sen­gers could have 20 min­utes slashed off our jour­neys.

The ac­tu­al­ity is the thud­dingly clunk­ing TWO MIN­UTES. That’s right: all that lies at the bot­tom of Santa’s sack is 120 sec­onds.

Some­thing is very wrong some­where. If £200 mil­lion can only save two min­utes, then ev­i­dently our ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture can’t ac­com­mo­date speed-ups. By ex­ten­sion there­fore, it’s the in­fra­struc­ture that is at fault.

Our Euro­pean cousins in­her­ited ex­actly the same Vic­to­rian-era rail sys­tems as we did.

Un­like us, they’ve mod­ernised, up­graded and in­vested.

High-speed trains run­ning on the tight­est head­ways con­nect cities and towns ev­ery­where.

By com­par­i­son, we’re stuck with ris­i­bly third-rate trains and the poorestqual­ity long-dis­tance rolling stock in

Europe.

“Our in­fra­struc­ture creaks. When one of these out­dated trains head­ing for the cen­tral belt ap­proaches Stone­haven, it passes through three man­u­al­ly­con­trolled sig­nals within 300 yards – the same kind of sys­tem that Queen Vic­to­ria saw 120 years ago.

“So for a £200 mil­lion spend, we could save two min­utes? I spent al­most the same time di­gest­ing the clumsy ti­tle of the re­port – Trans­port Scot­land: Aberdeen-Cen­tral Belt Jour­ney Time Improvements Op­por­tu­ni­ties Study.

This is one tun­nel with no light at the end of it. Trans­port Scot­land re­ally has to do bet­ter. We pas­sen­gers de­serve it.

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