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Wigtownshire faces a second-class train service, MSP warns

A diesel train at Stranraer's railway pier earlier this year

THERE are warnings that Wigtownshire could be left with a second-class train service after confirmation electrification of the line south of Girvan is not on the cards. Electrification is expensive and critics say it may not be cost effective to extend electrification to Stranraer via Barrhill. There have been suggestions that as diesel trains are phased out, new technology locomotives – using batteries or hydrogen fuel cells – could take their place on the Wigtownshire line, though those are in their infancy. Colin Smyth, South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour's transport spokesman says he welcomes plans to electrify the rail route between Glasgow and Carlisle, via Gretna, by 2035. However, he has called on rail chiefs to go further after it emerged there are no plans to electrify the route between Girvan and Stranraer. The proposals are contained within Transport Scotland's Rail Services Decarbonisation Action Plan which aims to make Scotland's passenger rail services fossil-fuel free by 2035. The report states: “By 2035 we aim to have an electrified route between Glasgow via Gretna to Carlisle benefitting commuter flows from New Cumnock to Glasgow and Dumfries to Carlisle. “Additionally, by electrifying the line we envisage an enhanced strategic capability for rail freight, and a valuable diversionary route for freight and passenger services during closure of the West Coast Main Line. “We will use alternative traction as a transition in the South-West of Scotland until full electrification and also on the line from Ayr to Girvan. At this stage we are planning to run alternative traction permanently from Girvan to Stranraer.” Mr Smyth said: “I have long campaigned for the full electrification of the Nith Valley line between Glasgow and Carlisle, via Gretna so I welcome the aim to deliver this by 2035 but I am very disappointed that there are no plans for the same between Girvan and Stranraer. Once again passengers in the south of Scotland are being offered a second-class service. “Electrifying Scotland's passenger routes will help to decarbonise rail services, continue to reduce carbon emissions and, crucially, increase travel speeds on those tracks that benefit. “The Scottish Government therefore should be going further and committing to more electrification, including the Girvan to Stranraer route. As it stands, these proposals are half-hearted at best. "There have always been concerns over the long-term commitment to services to Stranraer south of Girvan and this decision will simply raise these concerns again. If a track has full electrification, it shows a commitment to that route. "There is a big debate about closer links between Scotland and Northern Ireland and pie-in-the-sky proposals for a bridge between the two countries. Yet the Scottish Government can't even commit to properly improving the rail and road links to the existing ferry terminals. “Reducing emissions but also increasing access to rail is going to become more and more important as the years go by and we owe it to our children and grandchildren to fully commit to doing all we can.”

<< back Published: 28 Jul 2020, 18:29

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