Ministers pressured

Greens push for radical plan to boost rail travel

Borders railway
Greens want more new lines like the Borders Railway

Green activists are demanding a multi-billion investment in the rail network as one condition for continuing to prop up the minority SNP government.

The move comes ahead of a vote by Scottish Green Party members on whether to sustain the power-sharing pact, known as the Bute House Agreement, following the SNP’s decision to scrap a key carbon emissions target.

Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan has announced proposals that include the development of a new national integrated ticketing system for public transport, setting up a climate assembly and trebling the number of charging points available for electric vehicles, in a bid to encourage more people to switch away from petrol and diesel cars.

But the Greens say the plans do not go far enough and have dusted off its Rail for All report, published by the party three years ago calling for a 20-year, £22bn investment in Scotland’s railways “to build a modern, zero carbon network that is affordable and accessible to all, making rail a natural choice for commuters and business and leisure travellers”.

So far only one key proposal has been implemented – nationalisation of ScotRail – and the Greens now believe it is time to put its other recommendations into action.

The report called for journey times to “be significantly reduced, particularly between key Scottish cities” to “enable rail to become the dominant mode for long-distance travel”.

It recommended a substantial shift in freight from road to rail and connection of communities of more than 5,000 people to the national rail network, reversing many of the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

The report stated: “Whilst many European countries have built high-speed lines and long-distance connections that criss-cross the continent and provide an affordable, comfortable and low-carbon option for commuting, business and leisure travel, Scotland and Britain as a whole has systematically under-invested in the rail network in favour of roads. 

“In 1895, for example, one could make the trip from the Capital to Dundee in just 57 minutes, compared to today’s 64 minutes.”

The document proposed building a tunnel under the Firth of Forth Tunnel to transform east coast transport and cut journey times from Edinburgh to Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.

Comment: Greens may emerge stronger from climate wobble

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