Rail consultation on the wrong tracks

Last month the Scottish Government launched Rail 2014, a consultation on the future of rail services in Scotland.

I am deeply concerned by some of the proposals that are raised in the consultation which could negatively impact on passengers. In response to these proposals Labour has launched an online petition calling on the SNP to think again.

So far, the campaign against the Great SNP Train Robbery has gathered over 4,000 signatures.

A number of proposals relate to timetabling with suggestions that the number of trains could be reduced, the duration of journeys could be lengthened and the number of changes passengers on long-distance routes would be required to make increased. At the same time, there are proposals which would see all cross border trains coming from England terminating in Edinburgh.

These changes would be massively inconvenient both to local passengers commuting to Edinburgh and those from further afield who wish to access the South.

The consultation is also seeking views on the possibility of raising fares for peak time services and limiting the number of people who can get on board.  I am concerned that this could price people who need to get to work in Edinburgh out of using the train.

Since devolution, the number of people using the railway has grown steadily.  This has meant fewer cars on the roads and has reduced the amount of CO2 emissions associated with transport.

This is the sort of sustainable transport policy we should be following but these proposals will do little to progress it. Instead they will merely result in fewer trains, longer, more expensive journeys and a less convenient service.

The Rail 2014 consultation is an opportunity for passengers to make their views known and to set out how our railways can develop to better meet the needs of passengers.

Across the Lothians, constituents have raised a number of issues related to rail travel that could be raised in the consultation.

For many people travelling to work in Edinburgh from across the Lothians, the way that rail services link in with other transport options is important.  Some want to drive a portion of their journey and would like to see park and ride facilities expanded.  Others want to see better integration between rail and bus services and many are frustrated at the difficulties faced when trying to take their bikes on board.  There are also access issues for people with disabilities.

Whatever your views on how rail services can be improved, I would encourage you not only to take part in the consultation but also to send me your comments.

The consultation is open until February 2012.  To have your say, click here.