The Scottish Greens have promised to dig deep for votes after proposing billion-pound plans to tunnel under the Firth of Forth.
As part of a £22 billion “rail revolution”, new tracks that would travel underneath the water between Fife and Edinburgh would be built.
The party commissioned a report into the country’s rail infrastructure from Deltix Transport Consulting, which claims the building of the new crossing would transform rail travel north of the central belt.
Pointing to European countries with successful tunnels like the Ceneri Base in Switzerland, which cost €3.6 billion and is roughly the same distance, as well as previous expeditions to mine coal from underneath the Forth in the past, the Greens and Deltix say their proposals are feasible as part of the country’s “green recovery” from coronavirus.
The Forth Tunnel would give this generation of Scottish engineers the opportunity to continue the strong traditions of their illustrious predecessors – creating transformational infrastructure for the nation.”
Deltix Transport Consulting associate David Prescott
As well as the massive infrastructure investment, the Rail for All programme would see upgrades to the Highland Main Line, the Far North Line, West Highland Line and the Ayr – Stranraer Line.
There would also be the option of reopening the Dunfermline to Alloa route and opening new stations across the country, party transport spokesperson and Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said.
Deltix said the Dundee-Edinburgh line had been built in the Victorian era and was “simply not fit for purpose”.
Where the tunnel could go
Rail analysts Deltix suggests pivoting Scotland’s main rail network away from Haymarket, which is currently where the main routes transit through.
This has caused a “bottleneck” according to the report, alongside the “speed limited” Forth Bridge, which was built more than 130 years ago.
Tunnels would be cut from from Abbeyhill to Seafield, between Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy, passing under the water and under Leith, emerging at east of Waverly.
By building a new station and re-routing through Leith, it is claimed the bottleneck through the central belt would ease, as well as offering quicker services from people traveling between Aberdeen and Edinburgh through Fife.
Deltix Associate David Prescott, who co-wrote the report, added: “At a stroke the Forth Tunnel can transform the geography of Scotland, just as the Forth Bridge did 130 years ago and the Forth Road Bridge nearly 60 years ago.
“It would substantially cut the distance between Edinburgh and east Fife, Dundee, Aberdeen, Perth and Inverness, while also putting Leith at the heart of the Scottish rail network.
“The Forth Tunnel would give this generation of Scottish engineers the opportunity to continue the strong traditions of their illustrious predecessors – creating transformational infrastructure for the nation.”
Scotland’s railways suffered ‘years of decline’
John Finnie said: “Scotland’s rail network has suffered from long-term, systemic under-investment, with governments of all stripes favouring roads.
“While some improvements have been made in recent years, the network north of the central belt has been largely neglected. As someone who, prior to the pandemic restrictions, regularly travelled by rail between the north and the central belt, I know all too well just how infuriating the current setup can be.
“The fact that many journeys take longer in 2021 than they did in Victorian times shows just how constrained Scotland’s railway has become.
“But we must not accept this decline. We can enjoy, and we must demand, the environmental, economic and quality of life benefits of a comprehensively modernised rail network.
“The public and political support for an investment-led green recovery from the current crisis is the ideal opportunity to deliver this overdue modernisation.
“Investing in a modern Scottish railway must be a key pillar of the green economic recovery. We know that it will create jobs and provide a legacy for communities across the country.
“The key principle of the Rail for All programme is to make the rail network accessible to everyone. Our aim is, as far as realistically possible, for every town with a population of more than 5,000 to be connected to the network.
“That would see a host of new stations developed across the country, with existing lines upgraded, and previously closed lines given a new lease of life.
“The current setup focuses connections with the capital through Haymarket, creating a major bottleneck that affects the whole network.
“Our proposed Forth tunnel would ramp up capacity on the east coast and provide a fast and direct connection between Edinburgh and Fife, on to Perth, Inverness, Dundee and Aberdeen, reducing journey times and massively increasing capacity on the network, including to the west.”
What else could be changed
The Greens have said their programme could help connectivity across rural Scotland and have also proposed the following changes:
- Construction of a new overground terminal station at St Enoch’s (Argyle Street) in Glasgow.
- Full electrification of the inter-city network by 2030 to allow the current rolling-stock to be replaced with modern, high-performance electric trains.
- Replacing outdated rural rolling stock with electric battery-powered trains.
- Ensuring, where realistically possible, every town with a population of more than 5,000 is connected to the rail network.
- Upgrading the Highland Main Line, the Far North Line, West Highland Line and the Ayr – Stranraer Line, reopening the Dunfermline to Alloa route and opening new stations across the country.
- Introducing tramtrains that can run on streets and on traditional rails for cross-city transit; for instance, in Aberdeen between Ellon and Banchory.
- Redoubling congested single-track lines including the Milngavie and Balloch branches.
- Significantly boosting capacity to allow a more efficient and sustainable shift of freight from road to rail.