John Davies, an independent railway consultant, addressed the Scottish Region at its Annual Rail event on Rail Developments in Wales and Scotland in which he showed that although there were some interesting similarities between the two countries, there were some striking differences as well.
John Davies, an independent railway consultant, addressed the Scottish Region at its Annual Rail event on Rail Developments in Wales and Scotland.
© John G. Fender 2011
He began by comparing the rail situation in both Wales and Scotland in 1960 and in 1990 before looking at more recent rail developments. When he first visited Scotland in 1960, Mr. Davies noted that there were new Diesel Multiple Units (DMU's) in operation on the Glasgow - Edinburgh service, there were new DMU's on the Ayrshire lines and Glasgow's "Blue Trains" had commenced operation.
He noted that Glasgow's Cathcart Circle service was very inefficient and that overall services were slow and infrequent, with train departures at odd times Compared with the situation in Wales in 1960 there were some noticeable differences. The Cardiff Valley lines were operating on a "clock face" timetable whilst the South Wales - Birmingham services was operated by new DMU's. However, the Wales - London services were still operated by slow steam trains. In North Wales, there was good marketing and promotion of services but little else to note.
Looking at the rail situation in the two countries in 1990, Mr. Davies noted that although there were similarities in the types of improvements, the scope of these was different. For example, in Scotland the Glasgow - Edinburgh service had been revamped and new Class 158 DMU's had been introduced, there had been a massive improvement in the Strathclyde network but he thought that it was overstaffed. Many stations had been revamped throughout the country and there had been a number of lines re-opened. Low cost Radio Electronic Token Block signalling has also been introduced, but there was no Edinburgh suburban services although there were good links to the outlying areas.
In Wales in 1990 the Valley Lines had been improved, there were developing interurban services and new rolling stock had been provided, mainly Class 158 DMU's. There were also a number of re-opened lines and stations, but little development of existing stations, many of which were considered shabby and unkempt. There was also no coherent network. Many of these problems stemmed from the former British Rail's Sectorisation of the rail network and whilst Scotland was operated as a single entity for all rail operations, Wales was split into three different areas, with different Regions taking responsibility for services. For example, the Western Region covered South Wales whilst the North West region covered North Wales and Central Wales cam under the Central region.
Deregulation of the bus and coach industry had an impact on the railways and a different approaches to this were taken by the Scottish and Welsh Railways. The Scottish Region reacted quickly and decisively to competition, especially on the Glasgow and Edinburgh and the highland routes whereas the Western Region adopted a "wait and see" attitude. Meanwhile South Wales tackled competition on the M4 corridor decisively with reduced fares, improved services and succeeded in putting the competing bus services off the road.
Looking at new railway lines, Mr. Davies noted that there had been a number of re-opened lines in both countries. In Scotland, new services were introduced to Bathgate, Drumgelloch, and Cumbernauld. The Glasgow Central low level line was re-opened, enabling a major revamp to the Glasgow suburban network to be implemented. As part of these schemes there were new stations and refurbishment to many others. In Wales, new services were introduced to Aberdare, Maesteg and Cardiff City and 25 new stations were built, only one being in North Wales, the rest being in South Wales. With the privatisation of the railways, Mr. Davies noted that the Scottish Railways were privatised as one rail franchise, ScotRail, whilst in Wales there were a number of different rail franchises, for example, First North Western, Central Trains and South Wales and Western.
Devolution brought changes to railway operation in both countries. In Wales, the Wales and Borders franchise was created, although powers remained at Westminster and with the DfT until this year when powers passed to the Welsh Assembly. Meanwhile in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament now has railway powers and Transport Scotland, the Agency set up by the Scottish Executive to oversee Scotland's transport, is the franchise controller.
Mr. Davies then looked in detail at a number of rail developments in both countries, comparing them to highlight the similarities and differences. In Scotland, he looked at the Larkhall line (now open), the Alloa line, and the Waverley line as well as the possibility of a new Edinburgh - Glasgow service via Bathgate and contrasted these lines with the Vale of Glamorgan line (now open), the Ebbw-vale - Cardiff line. The areas these lines are in share certain similarities in being There is financial support for all of these schemes from either the Scottish Executive or Welsh Assembly and Mr. Davies thought that railways in both countries would continue to develop with continued investment.
The Scottish Region would like to thank Mr. Davies for his presentation, Mr. A. Lightowler of Atkins for hosting the event and providing the accommodation and refreshments.
Report by John Fender.
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