MPs concern over rail proposals

ANGUS MP Mike Weir has called upon Transport Scotland to support the continuation of direct rail services between London and Aberdeen.

In their current consultation on rail services they suggest that such services should terminate at Edinburgh with passengers changing to Scotrail trains for services further north.

Mr Weir says that such a change would be detrimental to the local economies of Angus and Aberdeenshire.

There has been a direct service between London and Aberdeen since the mid-19th century. Mr Weir noted that the first mention of such a service which he could find was in the Illustrated London News of April 30, 1850. This was for the opening of the Aberdeen Railway and the article refers to ‘this establishment of a direct continuous route of upwards of 500 miles to London.’

Mr Weir commented: “While recognising the point made in the consultation that there are fewer passengers travelling on direct services north of Edinburgh, they none the less are important for the local economies of Angus and Aberdeen and abandoning stops at Arbroath, Montrose and Stonehaven would be very damaging.”

“If this was to be done then it would mean that all passengers travelling from the North East would require to change at Edinburgh.”

“The passenger journey time is likely to be increased. It is already a very long rail journey - about six hours from Arbroath to London - and any increase in time due to changes would likely result in a reduction in those using rail services.”

“The East Coast direct service is an important element of the local economy of Angus allowing direct access by rail from London and other major English cities for both businesses and, importantly, tourism.”

“The net effect would likely be an increase in air traffic which would impact adversely on the Scottish Government’s targets of reducing carbon emissions.

“At present someone travelling from Edinburgh to London is probably as quick, taking into account boarding times, in taking the train as flying since the existing service by train will reach London in around four hours. It is a very different situation from Aberdeen where the difference between the time taken to travel by air and that taken by the train are already substantial. Any increase is likely to result in more passengers making the journey by air than by train.”

He continued: “I have long argued for upgrades to the line north of Edinburgh and that if any high speed rail system is really going to make a difference to carbon emissions then it needs to tackle the longer internal journeys within the UK, which Aberdeen to London is clearly one of the longer and busier routes.

“The construction of high speed rail between London and Birmingham, for example, is unlikely to make much of a reduction in air passengers in favour of rail.”

Mr Weir called on all those who use the service to make their views known in the consultation. The details of the proposals and how to respond can be found at http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/strategy-and-research/publications-and-consultations/j203179-00.htm

The consultation closes on February 20.