Tony Hughes at the Glasgow meeting.
© John Fender, 2012
The first Glasgow meeting of the session was addressed by Tony Hughes whose talk entitled "Glasgow's Railways - A fresh perspective" ptovided an insight into his own views of how Glasgow's railway network could be developed and was based on a paper he presented to the 2012 STAR Conference.
The inspiration for the presentation came from two documents, the first being Network Rail's Edinburgh - Glasgow proposals improving the Edinburgh - Glasgow lines and the second being Transport Scotland's Rail 2014 consultation document. Tony focussed on the conflict between local and long distance services and looked at the possibilities that a fresh approach to utilisation of the railways could bring.
He looked at the aspirations of customers, i.e. what do they want. He drew on information from Passenger Focus and local consultations and in general the travelling public want to get a seat, have competitive journey times, punctuality, value for money and accessibility to the network as well as connectivity. However, there are barriers to travel, such as the difficulty in getting a seat or punctuality.
A lack of train paths and the need to operate freight and passenger services along with local services on the same tracks leads to a slower network than may otherwise be the case. On some lines in the pre-Beeching there were 4 tracks but now there are only two leading to congestion due to capacity contstraints. Junctions also can be an issue and station throats are often congested.
Platform capacity is also a fator as there are a limited number of platforms, for example at Glasgow Central and Queen Street stations. At one time Glasgow had four main line stations, but now only has two and one only has to look at the number of different lines converging on Glasgow Central to see the problem. Network Rail has built an additional platform at Glasgow Central and there are now three tracks as far as Paisley.
There are still threats to services, such as the idea of curtailing the Cathcart Circle services and converting the line to Light Rapid Transit and operate direct to the city centre, but this is likely to be expensive.
Looking a the Glasgow Edinburgh line, the Edinburgh - Glasgow Improvement Plan intended that there would be four trains an hour with more coaches and additional platform capacity at Queen Street. Following a review, there are now plans to electrify the Cumbernauld - Glasgow line and divert services via Queen Street Low level station, freeing capacity at Queen Street High level station.
One possibity is to join terminating services at both stations to provide through services, but one issue is that of access to the city centre. Tony suggested that this could be resolved by changing trains at Bellgrove Station and building a new station at West Street to allow interchange with the Subway, which would allow passengers to get right into the heart of the ciyt centre.
The Crossrail proposals date back to the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study of the late 1960's and with the Strathbungo link would enable trains from East Kilbride to access Queen Street low level station. The Garngad Chord would also provide a means of accessing Queen Street low level station. These should be viewed as part of Crossrail and could provide a Cumbernauld - Paisley service.
Another problem area is the Hyndland - Finnieston line which is a victim of it's own success. With the re-opening of the Argyle Line, more trains were put onto this section and it is now congested. One possible answer is to sever the connection to the Argyle Line, but this would mean that there would be no line crossing the river. To solve this, it would be possible to re-instate the Bridgeton link to provide the cross river service. Lines through Central low level could be converted to light rail and this would offer the potential to put in additional stations and extend the line to the Parkhead and London Road areas and also westwards via Botanic Gardens to Maryhill or Partick.
Looking at the question of value for money, the biggest barrier is lack of patronage and we need to get more people to use the railways. Accessibility is also a problem and this requires more stations on the network. To address the issue of connectivity, more through services could be provided. However, in Glasgow there is a gap between the two mainline stations.
Currently there are two railway crossings of the river, but only one is used by passenger services. Using the crossing provided by the former City Union line at Glasgow Cross would mean that it would be possible to provide more cross river journeys and inter-regional connectivity with, for example, services between Ayr and Edinburgh becoming a possibility, or Edinburgh to Kilmarnock and Dunfries.
Tony also looked at the possibilities raised by High Speed Rail and although the current plan is for the line between London and Birmingham, with extensions to Manchester and Leeds, if the line was to come to Scotland, which the Government will be looking at, it would mean that a new station would be required and one site for this is the old College goods yard.
This station could be funded by the private secor with a developer building a world class station complete with shoopping opportunities. This would pull the city centre eastwards and as the new station would become the hub of the Glasgow network, there would be no need for the St. John's link from the Crossrail. The lint to the new station would parallel the Airdrie - Bathgate line and the A8 then head south towards Forth and onwards to the border.
There was a lively question and answer session with a number of intersting points being put to the speaker, who very ably answered them. The meeting was concluded by John Yellowlees, who was standing in for the Chairman presening Tony with a pair of the Scottish Region's engraved whisky glasses as a momento of the evening.
The Scottish Region would like to thank Glasgow City Council for hosting the event and providing the light buffet.
Report and photograph by John Fender.
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