Rail offers vital public services, connecting people with destinations and goods with markets. The Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Economic Strategy focuses public services on improving competitiveness and tackling inequality, to support sustainable economic growth for all.

Rail supports Scotland’s economic competitiveness by:

  • offering fast routes to areas of employment for commuters
  • linking cities in Scotland and the rest of the UK to help make Scotland a more attractive place for businesses
  • facilitating the movement of goods, and of consumers to retailers
  • connecting tourists to world-famous activities and destinations

Transport Scotland will seek to achieve these outcomes through investment in rail infrastructure, station facilities and new technologies. Further details of our investment programme can be found in this section of the website and in the projects section.

The Scottish Government’s rail policies focus actions and resources to support economic competitiveness, to tackle inequality, and to accommodate forecast growth in demand for rail. We aim to achieve a range of outcomes to improve rail services, capacity, value and integration.

The rail network also helps to tackle inequality in Scotland by providing affordable and accessible connections, particularly to our more remote areas and to vital public services, such as hospitals and educational facilities.


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

The Rail Enhancements and Capital Investment Strategy sets out the governance and decision-making processes for future investment in the railway network in Scotland.

Read more details about, including how to apply for, the Local rail development fund.

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

Transport Scotland is committed to improving Scotland's rail network. We have invested over £7 billion in the railway since 2007, which has resulted in

  • new fleets of modern electric trains
  • new and improved services through the ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises
  • 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

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 (EGIP), 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

Transport Scotland is 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

The rail freight sector is a vital part of Scotland's economy. The Scottish Government's vision is for a competitive, sustainable rail freight sector, one that plays a significant and increasingly important role in Scotland's economic growth. It will provide a safer, greener and more efficient way of transporting goods and materials.

We published Delivering the Goods - Scotland's Rail Freight Strategy in recognition of this sector's importance. The strategy is built on an extensive consultation process and it sets out how we will work in partnership with the rail freight industry.

Our vision will be achieved through:

  • Innovation - new efficient methods of delivery
  • Facilitation - building strong, lasting partnerships
  • Promotion - showcasing the benefits of using rail freight
  • Investment - maximum return for whole system investment

The strategy builds on existing support for rail freight. It includes enhancing infrastructure to make rail freight a more attractive proposition and freight grant schemes to enable companies to transfer freight to sustainable modes such as rail. The strategy also accommodated the £30 million Scottish Strategic Rail Freight Investment Fund, which is governed by the rail freight industry.

The Strategy is built on our extensive consultation process and the consultation paper is available online. You can also access our analysis of the consultation responses and a note of the discussions at our stakeholder events. The consultation responses which we have permission to publish are available on Citizen Space.

The benefits of using rail freight

Following the publication of the Scottish Government’s Rail Freight Strategy in March 2016 industry partners have worked together to produce a guide to the benefits of using rail freight, which we've called Delivering the Goods. It is aimed at companies and public sector organisations who may be unfamiliar with rail's capabilities but could benefit from using rail freight.

Rail freight offers many benefits, including:

  • lower costs
  • reliability
  • resilience
  • environmentally friendly
  • better for local communities


Efficient, accessible and integrated stations are crucial to ensuring maximum benefits from Scotland's rail services.

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

Scottish stations have improved significantly after considerable investment over the last few years. ScotRail has invested around £20 million on delivering front line improvements to passenger facilities at stations. The Scottish Government also provided £20 million for small schemes between 2006 and 2008, improving station facilities across the country.

Together, these investments have led to:

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

Transport Scotland is committed to ensuring that these facilities are maintained and improved over the course of the current franchise, with further investments being made at stations to support smart ticketing and integrated travel. Investment includes enhanced cycle facilities, upgraded ticket vending machines, multi-modal customer information screens and smart ticketing equipment.

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 eight Community Rail Partnerships in Scotland:

  • Anniesland to Glasgow Queen Street CRP
  • Borders CRP
  • East Lothian CRP
  • Highland Mainline CRP
  • South West Glasgow CRP
  • Stranraer to Ayr Line Support Association (SAYSLA)
  • Strathallan CRP
  • West Highland CRP

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.

ScotRail in the Community