No, this is not a message from the Cairo Tourist Board but shorthand for what must be the most no-brainer transport project in Scotland. Whereas five miles of M74 cost us £675m and 0 miles of Edinburgh tram cost us £600m (and counting) a plan is now out for public consultation to give Central Scotland 350km of modern, electrified railway. There was always something third world about cramped diesel trains providing the key backbone to green travel in Scotland. Every European capital but Dublin and ours (OK, plus Rekyavik—but they have no trains) has electrified its train network.
The Edinburgh-Glasgow Infrastructure Project (EGIP) will cost £900m—some £100m less than originally projected. For that money we get:
- 35-minute journey times between Edinburgh and Glasgow
- 13 trains per hour between Edinburgh and Glasgow (currently 5)
- electrified (and 10 mins faster) Dunblane/Falkirk/Edinburgh service
- electrified (and 10 mins faster) Alloa/Stirling/Glasgow service
- electrified (and 5 mins faster) Cumbernauld/Glasgow service
- 60,000 fewer tons of carbon in our atmosphere per annum
- New, faster, smoother Class 380 electric trains
- Even more competitive alternative to fighting appalling M8/M80 traffic
A good start to the work has already been done by opening the electrified Edinburgh/ Bathgate/Airdrie/Glasgow/Helensburgh service. That the only electrified line between our major cities previously was indirect and only served out-of-the-way places like Kirknewton and Carstairs was a nonsense. That line was only in place to allow electric train access to/from England but will nonetheless have an improved local service by 2013, with Cumbernauld getting electric service the following year. There will even be a tram/airport/rail interchange at Gogar, should TIE ever get their act together.
But 2016 will see the real advantage when electrification the main Glasgow/Dunblane/ Edinburgh triangle is completed. All stations in that area will see faster, more frequent services to/from city centres; trains that are more comfortable, less crowded. The ability to travel faster and easier will shift people from cars to rail. Unlike the M74 spend which largely benefitted car commuters in South Lanarkshire, EGIP will spread its benefits across three quarters of the Scottish population because even places like my own North Berwick will benefit on journeys beyond Waverley. We’ll join the 21st century at last.
Whether the bus companies will stop inhabiting other dimensions and behave like a partner, instead of an enemy, is not clear—but they need to.