The Rail Link 'battle'

by Julian Westaby.

"Taxi for Glasgow?"

"Taxi for Glasgow?"

To your average American, they probably find it absolutely astounding that they can’t jump off a plane at Glasgow Airport and right onto a fast-link train, which takes them straight into Central Station. Of course, there are lots of historical reasons why Scotland’s major airport still relies on cabs and buses to ferry the increasing number of visitors and business tourists  into the city. The Dr Beeching train infrastructure cuts which ravaged the rail network in the 1950’s were set against a backdrop of a fairly bankrupt Britain, where a lot of the soothsayers were thinking that cars and buses were ‘the future’ anyway. Trains (and trams, for those of an Edinburgh persuasion!) were seen as outdated, old-fashioned, slow, noisy etc etc.

To rational people, it might seem completely and utterly bonkers that in Fife, at St Andrew’s, the actual ‘Home of Golf’ it doesn’t have a railway station, to ferry rotund Americans, who are usually allergic to walking, on, or near to, the first tee.

It’s the same in the North. In the Highlands, there are only two lines available, to take people (rather infrequently), to the North West and North East extremes of Scotland. Ditto The Borders, lots of beautiful towns which are absolutely perfect for train day trips from Glasgow and Edinburgh, if there was a blinkin’ train that went there…

The fact that we don’t even have a proper MOTORWAY between Scotland’s two biggest cities might give the realist a hint of how policy has developed in ‘Scotia’ over the decades but really, honestly, in 21st Century Scotland, surely our main Scottish Airport HAS to have a rail link into our biggest City?

Our MD Claire Dunning, she kicked-up a bit of ‘a stooshie’ at last week’s Glasgow Business Awards. She simply said in her speech that Businesses in Glasgow were going to fight the decision of the ‘Mandarins’ to axe the proposed rail link. This seem to be a sensible and totally rational comment, but it was seen to be important enough, that she featured (along with her shiny new hair-do) on the front page of The Glasgow Evening Times!

In spite of Claire’s stance (which is surely backed by just about every sane Scottish person even the ecology people as it’s be cleaner than loads of buses and taxis?) officially, at the moment, it’s not going to happen. We’re NOT going to have a rail link from airport to city, which must put us in a tiny minority of Big, grown-up cities who don’t have one?

Of course, ‘in this current climate’ is the excuse and it’s said it comes down to cost. However, we’re living in a world where a slightly iffy (in some people’s eyes) Scottish Parliament building cost half a billion quid and the new Edinburgh tram network will cost…well, nobody knows, but it’s looking like being wayyy north of £800 million.  So, the cost of £70 million (let’s DOUBLE that to be safe as that’s usually what happens anyway and say £140 million) which has been quoted for the rail link seems a bargain?

Surely this HAS to be sanctioned, or in the future, we’re going to appear to be, in Billy Connolly’s frank and honest words words… ‘a wee, ‘diddy’ Nation’? After all We’re competing in a tough market and having a crap transport infrastructure is like fighting with one arm tied behind our back!

Scotland…Glasgow…Edinburgh, everywhere…is growing in confidence, stature and appeal and if you look at our ability to attract European Cups, MOBO’s, MTV Awards, G8 Summits and some of the WORLD’S biggest conferences, is it not time for us to grow up, put our money where our mouth is and INVEST?

Maybe we’re being simplistic but we reckon there will be a lot of battles entered-into but lost in the forthcoming years, due to ‘infrastructure’ issues letting us down.

So, come on Glasgow, Scotland, the Scottish Parliament, Scottish People, Glaswegians, Edinburghers, Paisley ‘Buddies’, SECC bosses, See Glasgow gurus, everyone…stand up and be counted!