Airdrie-Bathgate Rail Link Improvement Stage 1 Outcome Evaluation Report
1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1.1 In January 2003, Scottish Ministers accepted the recommendations of the Central Scotland Transport Corridor Study (CSTCS) to introduce a 15 minute frequency rail service between Glasgow and Edinburgh, via Airdrie and Bathgate. Shortly afterwards work on the project began which involved reinstating existing railway lines, electrifying track along the route, laying new track and also constructing new stations. A reduced service began on the route in December 2010, with full service beginning to operate by May 2011, at a cost of £300 million.
1.2 The Transport Scotland objectives for the project were:
- To improve direct access to labour markets in Glasgow and Edinburgh for people living in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian;
- To encourage inward investment to and therefore stimulate economic growth in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian;
- To assist in promoting social inclusion to communities in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian;
- To increase the number of people using public transport in Central Scotland;
- To offer a sustainable public transport alternative to the M8 and therefore reduce road congestion; and
- To allow existing services to be connected and create an alternative to the Edinburgh - Glasgow main line, reducing congestion at peak times.
1.3 In 2013, Transport Analytical Services produced draft guidance on the evaluation of major rail projects in Scotland. This evaluation forms part of a three-project pilot of the new guidance, used to test how appropriate the guidance is to projects at various times since their delivery.
Stage 1 Outcome Evaluation
1.4 The aim of the Airdrie-Bathgate Stage 1 Outcome Evaluation is to provide an early assessment of the extent to which the project is on track to reach its objectives, through the examination of relevant monitoring data.
1.5 This has shown that the project has achieved many of its objectives. At the same time it was not possible to determine the link between opening the rail link and a number of project objectives. Below we list the objectives along with the main findings associated with them.
1.6 Objective 1: Improve direct access to labour markets in Glasgow and Edinburgh for people living in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian.
Direct access to labour markets in Glasgow and Edinburgh has been improved for local communities. Journey times from Bathgate to Glasgow and from Airdrie to Edinburgh have significantly reduced since the service has been in operation improving access to Glasgow from the east and to Edinburgh from the west. In particular, weekday journey times between those destinations have seen a 3 time reduction in 2014, in comparison with 2006.
1.7 Objective 2: Encourage inward investment to and therefore stimulate economic growth in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian.
Whilst GVA for North Lanarkshire has been fairly consistent and that for West Lothian has increased in the period coinciding with the operation of the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link, it is not possible to attribute any change in GVA values for the North Lanarkshire and West Lothian Local Authority areas directly to the Airdrie to Bathgate rail improvement at this early stage. The data shows that the GVA for North Lanarkshire has been fairly consistent since 2007 and that for West Lothian is generally rising in line with the level of increases seen prior to the link opening.
1.8 Objective 3: Assist in promoting social inclusion to communities in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian.
In the short term, the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link improvement is unlikely to have significantly influenced employment patterns and, subsequently, the number of benefit claimants (which included persons claiming Job Seekers allowance) within North Lanarkshire and West Lothian. Whilst its impact on employment may materialise over a longer period, it is recognised that it may be difficult to attribute any change directly to the improvement as other external factors are likely to have a greater influence on local employment patterns.
1.9 Objective 4: Increase the number of people using public transport in Central Scotland.
The rail link has created better links to the national rail network from Central Scotland with trip destinations data indicating that the number of journeys has not only increased to stations on the Airdrie-Bathgate line but also to destinations further afield. As an example, the evaluation has found that the percentage of journeys to work using rail in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian in 2012 was higher than it had been in previous years, against a backdrop of reducing bus usage.
1.10 Objective 5: Offer a sustainable public transport alternative to the M8 and therefore reduce road congestion.
By providing a rail link between Airdrie and Bathgate, a public transport alternative to the M8 has been created although it is not possible to confirm whether this has removed traffic from the M8. The link has likely contributed to the increase in journeys to work by rail in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian Local Authority areas, providing a viable alternative to the motorway.
1.11 Objective 6: Allow existing services to be connected and create an alternative to the Edinburgh-Glasgow main line, reducing congestion at peak times.
It appears from the data that the number of passengers abstracted from to the Airdrie to Bathgate line from other Glasgow to Edinburgh services is limited, although this might begin to change as people adjust their travel behaviour. On the other hand, evidence suggests that the Airdrie to Bathgate line may have reduced crowding on Falkirk line services on the eastern section of the line. There is little to suggest that the Airdrie to Bathgate link has reduced crowding on the Falkirk line in and out of Glasgow.
Recommendations for the Rail Evaluation Guidance
1.12 A number of recommendations were made as a result of the draft rail guidance being used in the Stage 1 Outcome Evaluation of the project.
1.13 The main comments referred to the need to provide a toolkit setting out a range of indicators that can be used against the STAG objectives; including a requirement for an Evaluation Plan to be prepared at an early stage; providing advice on assessing the accuracy of predictions; building in assessments of environmental mitigation measures into the evaluations; providing advice on incorporating stakeholder feedback. It has also been noted that roles and responsibilities of the project team as well as details of the reporting structure to be used need to be more clearly defined. Uncertainty around the role of the Gateway 5 review and Lessons Learned document's role in the evaluation process were highlighted, as was the need to include advice on how lessons learned are to be disseminated.