Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Growth in the highlands

The highlands of Scotland, particularly around Inverness, are seeing a great deal of growth in rail traffic, with several station reopenings and new freight flows. Beuly and Conon Bridge stations near Inverness reopened this year.
Direct Rail Services have opened a new terminal at Georgemas junction to serve the Dounreay nuclear facility as it is decommissioned.
There's a new freight flow of bulk Scotch whisky from Elgin to Grangemouth, complementing the existing "Tesco trains" that bring supermarket goods to Inverness from the south. Unfortunately, the disconnection of the Keith and Dufftown railway from the national network at Keith, means that the distilleries at Dufftown don't currently have a direct rail connection, meaning a short lorry journey is still required to get the spirit to Elgin.
While talk of widening the A9 may suggest investment (and traffic) is moving from the rails on to the road, the evidence for the moment is of growth on the rails. Which is good for the environment and good for the users of the A9, who will have less trucks to contend with.
There is still plenty that can be done to improve the highland main line, though. Signalling is still by Victorian semaphores. Resignalling and even electrification would bring the line into the 21st century and allow faster, more modern trains to compete more effectively with road transport.
In the heritage sector, the Strathspey Railway's proposed extension to Grantown-on-Spey will give tourists in the highlands a car-less route to Grantown and will make the Strathspey the longest preserved railway in Scotland. Good for the tourists and good for the local economy.

Meanwhile, on the Inverness to Aberdeen route, Transport Scotland is planning track and signalling improvements that will allow faster, more frequent trains. And there's also talk of opening a railway station to serve Inverness airport.


Glasgow railways getting ready for Commonwealth Games

Dalmarnock station in Glasgow is currently receiving the finishing touches to an £11 million redevelopment, times to be completed before the opening of the Commonwealth games, due to take place in the city next year. The station is located near to some of the event's main venues such as the Athlete's Village, Celtic Park, the National Indoor Sports Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. The new station building features a modern, minimalist design, with diffuse glazing to let plenty of light in. A new lift and enclosed footbridge are designed to comply with the disability discrimination act.

The Glasgow Airport rail link was also intended to be completed in time for the games, but this has now sadly been cancelled. This will be a great setback, since there will be many participants and spectators travelling to Glasgow by air.

Railway technology article on the Dalmarnock redevelopment:
And on the Glasgow Airport Rail Link: