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Scottish Policy Group: Response to the consultation Paper of November 2000: "Strategic Priorities for Scotland's Passenger Railway."

The consultation paper is very welcome as is the depth of coverage and the vision for significant improvements in the provision of passenger rail services in Scotland over the next two decades.

The CILT Scottish Branch submitted on all relevant "daughter" documents to the 1988 Integrated Transport White Paper "Travel Choices for Scotland". Amplification has been provided as required at meetings and in correspondence and we are pleased at the extent to which the views expressed by ourselves and other similar bodies were taken into account in preparation of the Transport Bill and in subsequent developments.

The opportunity to comment in similar vein on the development of Scotland's railways can only be beneficial. There is little regarding the general aspirations and main objectives with which the Institute disagrees and responses to the questions posed are given later. There are however several fundamental areas of concern where greater certainty and clarification will be required if the most appropriate priorities for the next 15-20 years are to be determined sensibly from a Scottish perspective.

1. Organizational Arrangements and Government Influence.
Further clarification is required of the interaction between the UK Treasury, the UK Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Strategic Rail Authority and the Scottish Executive. The extent of the Executive's autonomy in setting out the priorities and defining the basis for letting the Scottish franchise is uncertain without more precision regarding funding arrangements now and in the future and the possible opportunities to change them. Directions and guidance cannot sensibly be given by the Executive to the Strategic Rail Authority for the next 15 to 20 years without greater knowledge regarding how the Executive's responsibilities for funding are to be met.

Structural weaknesses which apply to the rail network throughout Great Britain are recognized but more refinement is required to identify them in a Scottish context. Influence exerted by DETR and SRA will often reflect perceived difficulties and needs in England which will not necessarily apply in Scotland. Similarly for Railtrack a mechanism is required to ensure decisions reached for Scotland best meet Scottish needs rather than being part of an overall approach for Great Britain.

In addition to defining the basis for letting the Scottish franchise the Executive should also be able to influence the Inter-City services connecting with England to ensure, where appropriate, that they meet needs for travel in Scotland as well as travel to and from England.

2. Evaluation and Funding.
The assessment of value for money for proposals should not only be in catering for rail passenger needs, which has tended to be the approach to date. In defining the Scottish franchise a wider evaluation is required in social, economic and environmental terms, embracing the complete public transport network and taking account of freight needs and impact on rail traffic.

The subsidies provided need to generate real benefits to Scotland as a whole, and local communities, even if this if not always the most efficient approach from the narrow railway operation perspective. The extent of limits on subsidy must be known and this requires clarification of the various responsibilities as outlined above.

For both levels of subsidy and investment a "level playing field" is required for consideration of road and rail travel. For road enhancements total user benefits are taken into account and this should also apply for rail, embracing the consumer surplus as well as income derived from passengers. There should of course be an assessment of all social benefits with nonuser benefit including the wider considerations outlined above.

An appraisal system is required which responds to the different characteristics and needs of Scotland.

3. Interaction with Freight Services.
The interaction between passenger and rail services is recognized but the consultation document does not appear to have sufficient regard for the need to ensure passenger rail developments do not prejudice rail freight movement. Scotland's peripheral position, limited rail network capacity and more isolated communities, demands greater attention for freight needs than for the remainder of Great Britain. The Executive's control of freight facilities grants is welcomed. TO ensure full utilization consideration would be given to additional and/or different criteria when assessing justification for them. Charges within Scotland relating to track access charges could also better meet Scotland's overall needs.

4. Safety and Security.
Care is required to avoid an over reaction to current public concerns, but even so more emphasis on safety would be helpful. The much superior safety in travel by rail compared with road travel should be highlighted to a greater extent and safety benefits should be important criteria when assessing justification for subsidy and for investment.

Passenger security should also be an important consideration although, again more publicity to allay public fears, which are often not justified, would be helpful.

 

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