Scotland’s Economic Strategy sets out an overarching framework for how we aim to achieve a more productive, cohesive and fairer Scotland. It prioritises boosting investment and innovation, supporting inclusive growth and maintaining our focus on increasing internationalisation

Rail is part of the fabric of Scotland’s economy, providing vital public services by connecting people with destinations and goods with markets. It supports our economic competitiveness by:

  • offering fast routes to employment for commuters
  • linking our cities with the rest of Great Britain, making our nation a more attractive place to not only live and work, but also do business
  • moving goods around the nation and bringing customers to businesses
  • connecting tourists to world-famous destinations and attractions up and down the country.

For rail, this means Scottish Government policies focus actions and resources to support economic competitiveness, to tackle inequality, and to accommodate forecast growth in demand for rail.


Our rail directorate is responsible for planning and delivering rail policy, strategy and development. As part of this, we:

  • carry out appraisals of capital projects
  • advise on rail investment decisions
  • provide the specification of railway outputs that the Scottish Government will wish to buy

We also provide input from a Scottish perspective on reserved rail issues such as:

  • European directives
  • cross-border rail franchises
  • the Equality Act
  • safety and standards

Strategy publications

Rail Enhancements & Capital Investment Strategy & Local Rail Development Fund

Through the Rail Enhancements and Capital Investment Strategy we set out our approach to planning and funding rail projects. It takes a strategic approach to all rail capital investments with a particular focus on making best use of the opportunities presented by major renewals. It also sets out the governance and decision-making processes for future investment in the railway network in Scotland.

High Level Output Specification (HLOS) for Rail Control Period 6 (2019-2024)

The HLOS sets out the Scottish Government’s commitment to improving performance, reducing journey times, and increasing the capacity and capability of the Scottish rail network.

Statement of Funds Available (SoFA) for Rail Control Period 6 (2019-2024)

The SoFA sets out the statement of funds available, or likely to be made available, to support rail activity in the rail control period from 2019-2024 (rail control period 6).

Statutory Guidance from the Scottish Ministers to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR)

The June 2018 Guidance to the ORR explains the context, objectives and approach of the Scottish Ministers for Scotland’s Railways.  It follows publication of the High Level Output Specification for Rail Control Period 6 and the Statement of Funds Available.  The Guidance revokes and replaces the Guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers in June 2012.

High Level Output Specification (HLOS) for Rail Control Period 5 (2014-2019)

The HLOS is a blueprint aimed at improving performance, reducing journey times and increasing the capacity and capability of the Scottish rail network.

It sets out a programme of over £3 billion investment in Scotland's railway, enabling Network Rail to operate, maintain and enhance the rail infrastructure from 2014 to 2019. Scottish Ministers are obliged to submit the HLOS and Statement of Funds available to the Office of Rail Regulation for approval.

Scotland's Railways

Scotland's Railways was published in 2006 as part of the National Transport Strategy. It set out the Scottish Ministers' vision for the rail network over the next 20 years and shows how rail can contribute to achieving the three strategic outcomes of:

  • improving journey times and connections
  • reducing emissions
  • improving quality, accessibility and affordability

The document highlighted 30 projects of different lengths to deliver the Government's vision for a world-class railway system.

Back on track

We're improving Scotland's rail network through an investment of over £7 billion since 2007, which has resulted in

  • new fleets of modern electric trains bringing an additional 115,000 seats each weekday
  • new and improved ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises. This means there are now, on average, over 2600 daily services
  • 76 kilometres of new railway, including the Borders Railway, which is the longest new domestic railway to be constructed in Britain for over 100 years
  • 13 new stations already delivered.

Building on these successes, the Scottish Ministers committed to investing a further £5 billion into Scotland's railway. This period of investment runs from 2014-2019 and includes:

  • £3 billion in capital investment, delivering strategic enhancements in the Central Belt, the North East and the Highlands
  • the Aberdeen to Inverness Rail Improvements, which will improve journey times and connectivity for freight and passengers. Phase one involves new stations at Kintore and Dalcross
  • the Edinburgh Glasgow Rail Improvement Programme, which will provide a major boost to Scotland's wealth and long-term economic sustainability
  • the redevelopment of Glasgow Queen Street Station, which involves extending platforms to accommodate longer trains and improving the passenger experience.

Cross-border links

We're also looking at cross-border links and, in particular, the economic and environmental benefits that high speed rail can bring to Scotland.

Cross border rail services are an undoubted success. There are currently around nine million cross border passenger journeys annually, and demand and provision for services continues to grow as they provide a sustainable alternative to domestic aviation. Further improvements in quality and journey times will improve rail’s attractiveness in this market.

Cross border passenger services are operated under franchises specified and awarded by the Department for Transport (with the exception of The Caledonian Sleeper services).

Scottish Ministers are entitled to offer advice on the specification of these services as they relate to Scotland.

Rail freight

Creating a platform for growth

The rail freight sector is a vital part of Scotland's economy, providing a safer, greener and more efficient way of transporting goods and materials, with each freight train removing up to 76 heavy goods vehicles from the roads. The Scottish Government's vision, as outlined in our rail freight strategy, is for a competitive, sustainable rail freight sector, one that plays a significant and increasingly significant role in Scotland's economic growth.

The Scottish Government is, therefore, leading the way in supporting rail freight growth with an industry first regulatory target for Network Rail to work with partners to grow rail freight on the Scottish network.

Strong and sustainable partnership working across public and private sectors is key to achieving growth and Network Rail has undertaken a significant amount of work with the rail freight industry on a growth plan for rail freight to achieve or exceed the growth target. This plan was published on 15 March 2019 and sets out objectives for encouraging customer confidence, developing growth, doing things differently and looking for simpler solutions.


Investment is also key to providing capacity for growth. The Scottish Government has invested around £8bn in rail services and infrastructure since 2007 and, going forward, freight is a key consideration in the pipeline of projects being developed by Transport Scotland and Network Rail.

In addition, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity announced a new £25 million Scottish Strategic Rail Freight Fund for the period 2019 to 2024. This fund will support the development and delivery costs of proposals for minor-medium freight interventions to improve the capacity and capability of the Scottish network for rail freight. More information on this fund will be available in the near future.

The fund does not replace the Freight Grant schemes which are still available to enable companies to transfer freight to sustainable modes such as rail.

If your organisation is interested in using rail as part of its logistics solution, our rail freight guide has more information on the benefits of using rail freight and contains key industry contact information.


Efficient, accessible and integrated stations are crucial to the passenger experience and to ensuring rail is an attractive travel choice which encourages more people out their cars and onto public transport.

There are currently 359 railway stations in Scotland with the vast majority leased to and operated by ScotRail. Network Rail manages Glasgow Central (high level) and Edinburgh Waverley. The Prestwick Airport station is owned and managed by the airport authority.

Since the start of the Abellio ScotRail franchise in 2015, significant investment has been made in improving railway stations from front line improvements to passenger facilities such as better waiting facilities, additional and upgrades to CCTV, new customer information screens, new ticket vending machines and additional car park spaces

In addition, there has been significant investment in retail development such as ‘to go’ kiosks, electric charging bays at stations to promote low emission car usage and additional cycle facilities at railway stations across the rail network.

From a safety and security perspective, £1.4 million has been invested in CCTV installation at stations with Help Points at each station where passengers can speak to someone and get advice.

Together, these investments have led to:

  • new lifts
  • improved CCTV
  • help points
  • toilets
  • waiting shelters
  • ticket office upgrades
  • customer information systems

We’re committed to ensuring that these facilities are maintained and improved over the course of the current franchise.

Scottish Stations Fund

The Scottish Stations Fund (SSF) was announced by Scottish Ministers in April 2012 and commenced operation in 2014. The aim of the fund is to lever third party investment to provide new stations and associated facilities.

The SSF has supported improvements to facilities at a number of stations across the country, including Edinburgh Waverley, Leuchars and Johnstone, with major upgrades planned for Aberdeen, Inverness and Stirling stations. Substantial contributions have also been approved for proposed new stations at Robroyston, Kintore, Dalcross. This significant investment will better serve the local communities and ensure wider access to the rail network.

Responsibility to demonstrate the need for a new or improved station lies with the relevant promoter (Local Authority, Regional Transport Partnership or developer).

Stations Community Regeneration Fund

Transport Scotland and Abellio ScotRail are seeking applications for funding from the Stations Community Regeneration Fund. The fund enables local community groups and businesses to take redundant stations properties within the ScotRail lease area and turn them into facilities that benefit local people.

Funding can be used to contribute towards structural repairs and refitting the premises for their intended use. Applications will be assessed on:

  • suitability within the current building, businesses and local area
  • how they meet a market or community demand
  • future benefits expected from the proposal

The Stations Community Regeneration Fund is managed and administered by ScotRail with applications being evaluated jointly in conjunction with Transport Scotland.

Potential applicants should email SCRF@scotrail.co.uk for further information. 

Timetable development

Developing and implementing an efficient timetable for the Scottish rail network is a key part of Transport Scotland's rail strategy. Efficient timetabling provides value for money as it makes the best use of resources and aids performance and punctuality.

Annual timetable change

Timetable changes are determined by the stakeholders, who include:

  • Transport Scotland
  • Regional Transport Partnerships
  • Department for Transport (for Anglo-Scottish trains)
  • Freight Operating Companies
  • ScotRail
  • Caledonian Sleeper
  • Network Rail

Timetable changes happen for a number of reasons, mainly due to public travel patterns, new stations and infrastructure or commercial changes. Major changes are kept to a minimum to avoid passenger confusion.

Development work on a new timetable involves detailed modelling of passenger demand for services and associated changes. It must also involve an estimation of resourcing costs, consultation and performance reliability. Proposed timetable changes should be developed well in advance of the change to meet industry planning timescales. Below is a timescale for implementing changes for the December timetable:

Some timetable changes require the negotiation of commercial changes to the terms of our contract with the franchisee, to reflect cost and revenue changes. Additionally, the Franchise Agreement and the Service Level Commitment are altered to reflect agreed changes.

Proposed timetable changes should be developed well in advance of the change to meet industry planning timescales. Below is a timescale for implementing changes for the December timetable:

  • 36 - 30 months prior to change date. Work commences on timetable development – this includes resourcing, costing, passenger demand and integration with other services.
  • June of the year prior to the December change date. A fully developed and resourced timetable is commercially specified to the franchisee.
  • September of the year prior to the December change date. Formal commercial specification to franchisee . This allows time for securing resources and train drivers to be recruited and trained. Driver training typically takes 15-18 months.
  • By February in the year of timetable change. The franchisee will propose the timetable to Network Rail and allow them to review, make necessary alterations and then to integrate all of the UK franchisees into one national timetable.
  • By June in the year of timetable change. Network Rail will make an offer of a timetable to the franchisee. This may include alterations to the original proposal, which will then be negotiated. These should finish by October to ensure the timetable is agreed with all parties at least 13 weeks prior to commencement date.

Community involvement

Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government are committed to engaging with the community to address where possible a wide range of interests along rail corridors.

Between 2012 and 2015 engagement was managed and undertaken by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACorP) who, with a £150,000 fund, promoted the creation and supported the operation of Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs) across Scotland.

ScotRail has been responsible for community engagement since 31 March 2015.

ScotRail in the Community

The purpose of ScotRail in the Community is to generate engagement with local communities and support our social, environmental and economic objectives.

The scheme seeks to harness the skills, experiences and ideas of community members, many of whom have not previously had a voice, to contribute to the future of ScotRail. It builds on the success of the existing CRPs, which have been instrumental in realising significant achievements within their local community through measures such as  innovative local marketing and improvements to station facilities.

There are now Ten Community Rail Partnerships in Scotland:

  • 6VT (From Edinburgh out to North Berwick/ Dunbar, Tweedbank, Kirknewton and North Queensferry; 28 stations)
  • East Lothian (Edinburgh –North Berwick/Dunbar; 8 stations)
  • Highland Main Line (Dunkeld –Carrbridge; 8 stations)
  • West Highland (Crianlarich–Mallaig; 19 stations)
  • Glasgow North   (Queen Street HLHL –Anniesland via Maryhill; 8 stations)
  • South West Glasgow (Crossmyloof –Barrhead; 6 stations)
  • Borders (Edinburgh –Tweedbank; 10 stations)
  • South West Scotland (Troon –Stranraer, Kilmarnock –Gretna; 17 stations)
  • Rail 74 (Hamilton Central –Rutherglen; 6 stations)
  • Strathallan (Bridge of Allan –Gleneagles; 3 stations)

Further CRP’s are being explored in Kyle, on the Shotts line and Far North Line

ScotRail in the Community will:

  • serve the geographical district, with shared needs and aspirations, linked by the railway
  • work with local organisations and businesses to maximise the potential benefits of the location, line and community
  • create and champion plans which engage with the rail industry to promote and market initiatives, offering clear benefits aligned to the long-term community objectives

In return for your engagement and commitment ScotRail will:

  • provide Community Liaison Executives to provide expertise and guidance
  • develop and support the operation of CRPs and establish new CRPs across the region
  • manage the ScotRail in the Community project fund which will be utilised for local initiatives in Scotland. This is designed to attract additional matched funding for community-based projects
  • introduce a wider programme of community initiatives
  • support local organisations to submit applications for funds from the ScotRail in the Community grant system, working with these organisations to support the application process

Building on previous successes, our local community involvement will be driven by the community with support from local, regional and national authorities, ScotRail and Network Rail.

Key outcomes

  • Over £390,000k committed to CRPs and community initiatives since 2015
  • Over £58,000 paid to CRP’s in last year for projects and admin  
  • £34,000 committed to Highland Mainline CRP for Kings Cross Highland Fling event in May 2019
  • First ever ‘ScotRail in the Community Awards’ was held on June 7 2019

Recent activities include:

  • 6VT achieved designated status in June 2018 (first Youth CRP in the UK) 
  • East Lothian rail safety project at Musselburgh Golf Club
  • Highland Main Line Kingussie art project -posters on display at the station and local art gallery.   
  • Rail 74 and Grow 73 work in partnership for a mural at entrance to Rutherglen station 
  • Borders (Jellicoe Plaques and Interpretation Boards)