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HARRIS: GOVERNMENT NEEDS A RAIL COMMISSION TO CREATE A BOLD, LONG-TERM VISION

Borders Railway shows current thinking is short-term and lacks a clear strategy

Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, has released written evidence which it has sent to Transport Scotland’s Rail Infrastructure Strategy Consultation.

The evidence has been submitted on behalf of Reform Scotland by Tom Harris, the former Labour Transport Minister in the UK Government and now a Reform Scotland Advisory Board member and can be read in full below.

In wide-ranging evidence, Mr Harris suggests that:

  • a Scottish Rail Infrastructure Commission is required to inject some bigger thinking into our long-term rail vision, such as whether new lines from the central belt to the north and/or south of Scotland could improve growth and reverse population decline in those areas
  • the Scottish Government should work with the Competition and Markets Authority to explore how its proposals for open access on-rail competition could benefit some Scottish routes
  • infrastructure build such as the Borders Railway was short sighted because it is not electrified and single-track, with bridges built only to accommodate the width of single-track, and therefore has limited potential for expansion
Commenting, Tom Harris said:
“We are in danger of missing the bigger picture when it comes to discussing rail in Scotland. We talk in very narrow terms about ScotRail and its operation, but what we actually need is an injection of some creative, strategic thinking so that we can give the Scottish people a rail system built for the future and one to be proud of.“Reform Scotland believes that the Scottish Government should create a Scottish Rail Infrastructure Commission to examine what ambitious transformational projects and new railway lines we need to boost the Scottish economy and transform our connectivity as a nation.

“The Borders Railway showed us that there is an appetite for new railways in Scotland, but it also showed us that our thinking is too small and our planning too short-term. That ship has now sailed, but we must learn the lessons from it, think big, and plan long, and that is why the need for a Commission is now critical.”

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