A HUGE public consultation exercise on £1 billion plans to improve rail journey times between Edinburgh and Glasgow was launched today with the aim of slashing them to just 37 minutes in the next five years.
The Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) will also see the number of services increased to 13 every hour.
Transport Minister Keith Brown was at Waverley today to launch what is being called one of the biggest ever consultation exercises in Scotland to gauge public opinion. Covering seven local authorities, which are home to almost two-thirds of Scotland’s population, the consultation will highlight the investment planned for the rail network across the Central Belt over the next five years.
As part of the exercise, which will last from June until the end of November, the project team will hold hundreds of events across the communities affected by the project and publicise the works through billboards, newspaper and radio advertising.
The programme of improvements, which includes transforming Haymarket station and building a tram/train interchange at Gogar, is being funded through a deal thrashed out by Transport Scotland and track owners Network Rail which will see funding borrowed against the asset value of the UK rail network.
Over the next eight weeks stations on the line of route will be targeted with posters and leaflets, as will local residents.
Mr Brown said: “The Scottish Government is committed to improving and upgrading Scotland’s railway, and this £1bn Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme is set to revolutionise central Scotland’s rail network.
“We are offering future generations greener, safer, more efficient services as well as improving economic opportunities.
“The launch of this consultation exercise is the start of everyone’s opportunity to help shape this programme.”
Ron McAulay, Network Rail director for Scotland, added: “The EGIP programme will deliver significant benefits for communities across central Scotland, reducing journey times and increasing service levels.
“The project will also further improve the appeal of rail as a greener alternative to the car and we are sure the public will be excited by the ambitious scale of this investment.”
The programme is expected to deliver a range of benefits by 2016, including a fastest journey time of 37 minutes on the main Edinburgh Waverley-Glasgow Queen Street route and increased service levels on all routes between the two cities from the current five or six services per hour to 13.
It will also see the electrification of 350km of the existing rail network in the Central Belt, including the main Edinburgh Waverley-Glasgow Queen Street line, and provide opportunities to increase services and reduce journey times on routes between Alloa and Dunblane and Edinburgh and Glasgow.
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