SNP Write To Byers Over Rail

The Scottish National Party's Westminster Transport Spokesperson Mr Pete Wishart MP today [Thursday] wrote to Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, protesting the decision announced by Mr Byers at the Transport Select Committee this week that the East Coast line between Scotland and London will no longer get a new fleet of high-speed trains as part of a new franchise deal.

This reverses a promise made by Mr Byers last July that there would be an early order for a new fleet – and means that the existing trains could remain in service for another 10 years.

Mr Wishart said:

"The broken promise not to renew the rolling stock on the East Coast main line is totally unacceptable, and the SNP are writing to Mr Byers demanding that he sticks to his pledge of last July.

"This simply underlines that the Strategic Rail Authority plan announced this week is overwhelmingly directed at London and the South of England, with very little for Scotland.

"Stewart Francis, Chairman of the Rail Passengers Council, has added his voice to this concern by saying:

‘The plan is skewed towards the South East and we are concerned that there is too little focus on the role of railways in regenerating the regional economies' (Times, 15 January).

"That is a key observation, and one made by someone taking a UK – not a Scottish – perspective.

"Of the 17 geographically specific major projects listed in the SRA announcement, 11 are located in London and the South of England. The East Coast line improvements is one aspect that should benefit Scotland, but now we learn that there is to be no renewal of the rolling stock for another 10 years or more.

"I have now tabled Parliamentary Questions in order to find out the exact breakdown in rail spending among the nations and regions of the UK, in relation to the SRA 10-year programme – information which I am sure will reveal the huge London bias of the plan.

"The failure to invest in Scotland's railways illustrates the need for all powers over the rail industry to be transferred from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament."

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