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What is the Scottish Government intending to make happen on the Scottish rail network in the next few years?

Transport Focus and others, over the years has endeavoured to make sure this spend focuses on what passengers want and will notice. Our forthcoming work on rail passenger’s priorities for improvement has been important in this alongside our analysis of 17 years’ worth of National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) data. The Scottish Government has published High Level Output Specification (HLOS) for Control Period 6 (CP6) on 20 July. It is pleasing to note the HLOS, reflects what is important to passengers.

Next the Office of Rail and Road finish their assessment, making sure Network Rail’s plan are efficient and represent value for money.

The HLOS sensibly recognises that demand for rail is expected to grow in the coming years and the priorities and investment activities in CP6 look to support continued growth on the railways that supports Scotland’s communities and economy. There is much investment already happening, either through franchises or individual projects, such as the electrification of the railways in the Central Belt, and the introduction of new electric trains.

Our initial reaction to all this news is largely positive. The emphasis from Government on maintaining and improving the reliability of existing services is welcome – this is a key rail passenger priority for improvement.

Passengers will welcome that performance is not solely measured by industry metrics but also include the NRPS data and include major stations (Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley) that are the responsibility of Network Rail. The development of key performance indicators that reflects the impact of performance, including at intermediate stations, on current passenger experience, and the attractiveness of rail services for new passengers, will also ensure the passenger experience is being taken well into account.

The large scale projects which were a feature of previous control periods are sensibly now waiting until business cases are fully developed and satisfy the investment criteria set out by Government before decisions are made on commitment.

The focus on improving value for money for passengers is good. Much needed investment in the railways is being made by passengers and the taxpayer.

The Government, following delays and cost overruns to existing projects, must explain how it is going to ensure they and the industry can deliver better value for money to help keep a lid on future price rises.

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