Monday, August 27, 2007

A Near-24 Hour Railway

Transport 2000 released a set of survey findings today, with public transport taking its customary beating from the Great British Public. This one focused on integration of all modes of transport, in particular buses that don't connect with trains - a rather ridiculous situation to be in considering that most of the Train Operating Companies are owned by bus companies! The survey was conducted among commuters rather than the public as a whole which makes it doubly worrying. I tend to think the general public will find any excuse not to give up their car, citing concerns about public transport that they have taken verbatim from motoring organisations or remember from when they were teenagers.

The train companies do make life difficult for themselves, though. Last week I travelled home from Glasgow on a train which was to form the last service back from Edinburgh at midnight. Normally the last service is at 2330, this midnight train was laid on especially since the Festival is in full swing. Except Festival-goers would have been hard pushed to get on the train. The Foo Fighters had been playing at Meadowbank so around 500 rock fans tried to cram onto the 3-carriage set which had been supplied for the service. Naturally I ran away from the scene as quickly as I could!

Why did Scotrail not anticipate the problem? It's not like these are secret gigs. Come to that, why is the last train during the festival at midnight? Think of the boost the economy of the country could have if more people could enjoy the various festival events in Edinburgh without having to worry about how they were going to get back to Glasgow, Falkirk or Fife. Network Rail always cite safety concerns about running late into the night - they have to check the track before the next day. Which is why I would not propose a 24 hour railway, but a near-24 hour railway and only for the 3 weeks of the festival. If the last train left Edinburgh at 3am the Network Rail P-Way staff would still have a couple of hours to check the track. It would make sense too if Scotrail ran express services to Glasgow over the Shotts line, as well as stopping services for Linlithgow and Falkirk, thereby distributing the revellers rather than having everyone trying to get on the same trains. The Fife Circle too could use a nighttime half-hourly service.

If more people could stay outside Edinburgh but still have a full night's activities, then the monetary boost that the city receives every year would be distributed further afield, too. Attendances would rise at the various shows as more people will be able to remain in the city until a time of their choosing rather than having what appears to be an incredibly stupid cut-off time determined by a railway system unwilling to budge for a mere 3 weeks of the year. I think this needs a Transport Minister willing to stick their neck on the line and tell the industry to just get it done.

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