Airdrie-Bathgate Rail Link Improvement Stage 1 Outcome Evaluation Report
6.1 This chapter summarises the main findings and conclusions from different parts of this project.
Stage 1 Evaluation
6.2 The aim of the Stage 1 Evaluation was 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. The objectives 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.
6.3 Overall, the findings from the Stage 1 Outcome Evaluation have shown that the project has reached many of its objectives, although it was not always possible to determine the connection between opening the rail link and some of them.
6.4 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. There has been an increase in train frequencies to Edinburgh, with significant reductions in journey times since the rail link opened. By virtue of providing a rail link between Airdrie and Bathgate, direct access between West Lothian Local Authority areas and Glasgow as well as between North Lanarkshire Local Authority areas and Edinburgh, is available. Furthermore, 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.
6.5 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. While the impact on GVA will 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 an influence are likely to have an influence on GVA in the Local Authority Areas.
6.6 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. From the analysis of the available Origin-Destination survey data, it would appear that the new service is being used by passengers with an origin station between Airdrie and Bathgate that may not otherwise have made the trip and do not have access to a vehicle. Based on this evidence alone, the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link improvement is considered to provide an improved means of travel for more disadvantaged members of society and, as such, may improve accessibility and, more generally, assist in promoting social inclusion.
6.7 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. The opening of the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link is also likely to have contributed to the increase in journeys to work using rail in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian Local Authority areas as well as Central Scotland more generally.
6.8 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.
6.9 Objective 6: Allow existing services to be connected and create an alternative to the Edinburgh-Glasgow main line, reducing congestion at peak times.
LENNON patronage data for stations on the Falkirk and Shotts lines suggests that there may be some evidence for abstraction of demand to the Airdrie to Bathgate line. However, there may be other factors which explain the fluctuations in demand at particular stations and the level of abstraction is relatively minor. It is also recognised that it can take people time to adjust their travel behaviour and the number of passengers using the Airdrie to Bathgate service to travel between Glasgow and Edinburgh may increase over time.
Count data for the Falkirk line was also analysed to determine the impact of the Airdrie to Bathgate line on crowding at peak times. The evidence suggests that the Airdrie to Bathgate line may have reduced crowding on Falkirk line services on the eastern section of the line, with falling demand on Falkirk line services and strong growth on Airdrie to Bathgate line services in the east since the rail link opened.
The count data for the western section of the line provides evidence of reduced crowding into and out of Glasgow on the Falkirk line but crowding levels have also fallen slightly on the Airdrie to Bathgate line over the same period. Based on the data analysed, there is no evidence to suggest that the Airdrie to Bathgate link has reduced crowding on the Falkirk line into and out of Glasgow. This is likely to be explained by the relatively small changes in service offering before and after the link opened on the western section of the line and the low number of passengers crossing the Airdrie/Bathgate gap indicated by the travel pattern analysis presented in Chapter 3.
Draft Rail Evaluation Guidance
6.10 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, which will test how appropriate the guidance is to projects at various times since their delivery. CH2M Hill were tasked with providing comments on the usefulness of the guidance for this Stage 1 evaluation.
6.11 As a result of this exercise, recommendations were made to require an Evaluation Plan to be prepared at an early stage and to identify all the required metrics; to include a toolkit that sets out the metrics, splitting them into mandatory and optional ones; to confirm the roles and responsibilities of the project team; to include advice on the approach for assessing how accurate predictions were and whether the scheme was delivering value for money; to provide advice on carrying out post completion reviews; and to include advice on incorporating stakeholder feedback, reporting structure and dissemination of lessons learned.