Campaigners outline £1bn blueprint for rail travel

A blueprint to return the north and north-east's railways to their heyday has been unveiled, including proposals to cut journey times between Inverness and Aberdeen.

Campaign group Transform Scotland has outlined £1billion plans to upgrade the line between Inverness and Aberdeen and the central belt.

The group - which is calling for a "rail revolution" - claims urgent investment is needed to bring the neglected lines into the 21st century.

And, echoing the current campaign to dual the A9 Inverness to Perth and the A96 Inverness to Aberdeen, one of the top priorities for the "Inter-city Express" campaign is dualling more of the corresponding railway tracks.

Increased electrification is also needed to cut journey times and make rail travel greener and more competitive, it is claimed.

The improvements would also take freight traffic off the roads.

They say that the Highland Main Line has changed little despite recently celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Under their plans, a new rail interchange would be built at Perth and a direct route between Perth and Edinburgh, which was scrapped in the 1970s to make way for the M90 motorway, would be reinstated.

Transform Scotland spokesman, Paul Tetlaw, said: "Scotland needs a rail revolution.

"Our campaign will build broad civic support for a planned programme of investment in the Scottish rail network over the next 15 years to bring all seven of Scotland's cities closer together with a safe, civilised and sustainable mode of transport and make Scotland's rail network fit for the 21st century.

"In doing so, we can reduce journey times, support travellers and commuters, create jobs, support the Scottish economy and reduce Scotland's carbon emissions."

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: "We are spending more than double per head of population on our rail- ways than Westminster over the next five years and we are taking a distinctly different path to ensure rail travel is affordable by regulating more fares and capping increases at or under inflation.

"The Scottish Government recognises the benefits of a continued programme of rail electrification and will be developing a strategy to identify future phases of electrification beyond the current committed schemes."

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