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 poorest-quality 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 When one of these outdated trains heading for the central belt approaches Stonehaven, it passes through three manually controlled signals within 300 yards – the same kind of system that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.