8 Cross-border services
Q29 - Should cross-border services continue to go north of Edinburgh? In operating alongside ScotRail services, how do cross-border services benefit passengers and taxpayers? And who should specify these services, the Department of Transport or the Scottish Ministers?
- - Services should continue north of Edinburgh, and potentially be enhanced
- - Having to change is a major disincentive (particularly for those with luggage or children and the mobility impaired). Also the potential danger of missing connecting trains
- - Service should be specified jointly (or at least both should be involved)
8.1 There was significant interest from both the public and key organisations to this question. Overwhelmingly, a large number of responses indicated that cross-border services should continue beyond Edinburgh and either maintain current service patterns, or if possible provide further enhancements to services. There were considerably less respondents who either agreed with the option of an Edinburgh hub, or thought that the option merited further consideration.
8.2 Key reasons to emerge as to why cross-border services should be retained are summarised below.
8.3 A large number of responses noted that any kind of interchange is usually viewed as a disincentive to travel. This can be further exacerbated on longer distance journeys such as cross-border services where passengers will often be carrying large amounts of luggage, or have children and families travelling with them. The prospect of changing services at an already busy Edinburgh Waverley station was not viewed as enticing. In a similar vein, respondents pointed out the difficulties that changing trains presents to older and disabled people, including the stress involved. Indeed, many respondents thought that this option would not benefit passengers at all. In addition, both organisations and the public noted that if the hub concept was implemented there would probably be an increase in journey times for passengers which would be a disincentive to travel.
"That maintaining through trains between the north east and London are critical both for economic/business and for leisure trips. The possibility of requiring all passengers to change trains at Edinburgh is completely unacceptable, would inconvenience many travellers, harm economic and tourism potential, create severe capacity issues and limit travel choice to/from the north east. Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government should insist on the Department for Transport's commitment to dual-purpose rolling stock being commissioned as soon as practical."
8.4 Respondents also noted the quality of rolling stock used, stating that cross-border services provide a greater degree of comfort and facilities including buffet facilities, toilets, Wi-Fi and appropriate luggage storage. It was thought that rolling stock currently provided by ScotRail could not compete with current cross-border services. Both the public and organisations queried whether ScotRail had the ability and capacity to run suitable replacements should cross-border services be terminated.
8.5 Another key theme which emerged was the perceived inability of Edinburgh Waverley station to operate as an appropriate interchange hub. Views were expressed about the layout of the station, stating that the station would not be easy to traverse for changing trains. In addition, respondents noted that this station was very busy. They questioned whether the station itself would be able to handle significant additional footfall which would be generated by creating the hub.
8.6 Other points that were raised about Edinburgh Waverley included the notion that the station already operates as a hub station where passengers can alight services and make connections to other parts of the country. Respondents could not see how any changes would be positive, as they viewed the only change to be the removal of direct services rather than introduction of new services.
8.7 Respondents stated that the option of removing direct services would appear to contradict National and Local Transport Planning Objectives, as this would discourage people from travelling by rail and therefore not contribute to modal shift. Indeed, responses from both the public and organisations recognised the potential that terminating services at Edinburgh Waverley could lead to modal shift towards air travel, the private car and potentially bus services. Respondents thought that long distance train services can compete with air travel due to the comfort and facilities offered. Any removal of direct services and replacement with perceived inferior rolling stock would reduce the competitiveness of the railways.
"Many passengers use the cross-border services that start and terminate. beyond Edinburgh precisely because they are through trains and they wish to avoid changing. Were those trains to run only to and from Edinburgh, there may be a reduction in long-distance travel by rail in favour of air which may not be regarded as desirable. If this idea is pursued, genuine consultation must take place with the passengers who will be affected before any decision is made."
8.8 Cross border services were seen as vital for tourists and business people alike. Tourists often travel with large amounts of luggage which is unsuitable on local rolling stock, whilst business travellers enjoy the comfort and facilities provided by superior quality trains. Organisations and the public highlighted the importance of both of these groups to the communities north of Edinburgh, noting that direct services were an important economic link between these communities and major cities across the UK. Respondents thought there would be a detrimental impact on the tourist industry north of the transport hubs, as the cross border services are the gateway to central and northern Scotland.
8.9 A number of respondents stated that there could be financial implications on the rail traveller of terminating services beyond Edinburgh. These respondents considered that by travelling on trains run by two operators, there would be no opportunity for attractive advance ticket fares.
8.10 Although the question was framed around the idea that there is a loss of finance from the local area as franchise money tends to travel south rather than being invested in the ScotRail network; the responses from individuals often stated that they were not interested in who the financial beneficiaries are, only that appropriate services are provided. For those who answered this consultation question, appropriate services would appear to be cross-border services.
8.11 Whilst the majority of respondents thought services should continue beyond an Edinburgh hub, a small number considered that there was an economic case for the option, or that the option should be subjected to further study. Respondents did note that should this option be taken forward, then there would have to be a properly integrated timetable to ensure minimal disruption and additions to journey times.
8.12 The consultation asked who should specify the cross-border services. Whilst there was a mix of views as to whether the UK Department for Transport or the Scottish Ministers were more appropriate to specify these services, the largest proportion of respondents thought that this should be a decision taken between both administrations, with services specified by the DfT but advised by the Scottish Ministers.
Organisational and individual responses
8.13 Responses were broadly similar between both organisations and individuals across each of the key themes identified. Indeed the top three themes were consistent in terms of content and order between both groups. Proportionately, slightly more individuals than organisations commented that services should continue to travel further north than Edinburgh. This theme attracted large scale support across each sub group of organisations.
8.14 Overall, organisations also tended to note that changing trains is a major disincentive - this was in particular reported by equality groups, passenger groups and tourism groups. Slightly more organisations, in particular rail groups, noted that services should be specified by both the Scottish Ministers and the DfT.
8.15 Respondents stated that the requirement to change trains is a disincentive to travel, and that for many groups and those with mobility problems this can be particularly problematic.
"We believe that cross-border services do go higher up the country than Edinburgh and the Central Belt in general. Blind and partially sighted people value the ability to travel on direct services as much as possible and reduce the amount of times they need to change trains. They need to rely on the Passenger Assistance System at interchanges and if this is not provided to adequate service, they run the risk of missed onward trains. It is often the case that the more complex the journey is, with variety of interchanges needed, then people choose not to travel that way or, if possible, take a companion with them to help."
Guide Dogs Scotland
8.16 Interchange is considered a barrier to travel for older people, those with mobility problems and those travelling with luggage and small children.
"Yes, cross border services are widely used by families for travel to visit relatives, sometimes this involves elderly or disabled relatives being put on the train in England and met by relatives in Scotland (or vice versa), Removing the direct services will prevent such journeys from taking place as there are no practicable alternatives and the need to change trains can cause considerable distress and anxiety to the extent that some people will choose not to travel. Scottish Ministers should specify these services."
"These services benefit passengers by making journeys quicker and easier, particularly for those who have difficulty changing trains (e.g. the elderly and infirm, disabled people, people travelling with young children). Curtailing these services would likely increase the demand for short haul flights, with the consequent costs to the broader public in terms of environmental degradation and noise."
8.17 A geographical analysis was undertaken of all the responses that included location information. The geographical analysis revealed that those living in the SEStran region were particularly interested in this question judging by the relatively high response rates from the area. This was to be expected as these Cross Border Services mainly serve this region and, therefore, proves how topical this question is in the surrounding local authorities.
8.18 The SEStran region generated the highest level of response to this question, possibly in part due to the requirement for SEStran residents to change trains if the option was to be pursued, or alternatively due to local knowledge of Edinburgh Waverley and opposition to it being used as the main hub for services in the east. Of the responses from SEStran that answered this question, almost half were from Fife with a further 16% from the City of Edinburgh. This high level of response from Fife is most likely a direct consequence of the requirement to change trains should this option be pursued.
8.19 A number of respondents specifically discussed the impact on the town of St Andrews. Both students and golfers currently use the cross-border services to access nearby Leuchars train station. Respondents thought that the option would negatively impact these user groups.
8.20 In addition to overall response rates, the SEStran region also provided the highest numbers of responses for each of the key themes.
Q30 - Or should the cross-border services terminate at Edinburgh Waverley, allowing opportunities for Scottish connections? And if so, what additional benefits would accrue from having an Edinburgh Hub?
- - Cross border services should not terminate at Edinburgh Waverley
- - There are no benefits to passengers from this option
- - Interchange is a significant hassle, particularly for those with luggage or mobility problems
8.21 As noted in the previous section, questions 29 and 30 resulted in a considerable number of responses. Due to the correlation between the questions, similar answers were provided across both questions, and in general the responses for question 30 replicate those in question 29, with both the public and a large number of organisations opposed to the option of creating an Edinburgh hub.
8.22 Essentially, a large number of responses were in direct opposition to the option in question 30, noting the disincentives of changing trains and the problems that would be experienced by all users, including older people and those with mobility impairments. A large number of responses thought there would be no benefits from an Edinburgh hub.
8.23 Whilst there is a danger of repeating themes discussed within Question 29, it should be noted that a large number of passengers and organisations queried the ability of Edinburgh Waverley to function as an appropriate transport hub due to obstacles which could hamper through travel.
8.24 Those who answered the question directly, noted that Edinburgh Waverley was currently an interchange hub with a large number of connecting services. These respondents wondered if there was any benefit to be gained by passengers as those who currently wanted to change could do so.
8.25 A number of individuals and organisations noted that if services north of Edinburgh were provided by the ScotRail franchisee, they could be specifically targeted to the needs and requirements of the public which could potentially mean an increase in services and frequencies.
8.26 In the main, organisations appeared to be against the termination of services at Edinburgh. Some respondents did, however, note some advantages to the option, including the ability to operate local services without the disruption of long distance through-services; and the possibility that subsidies can be reduced by the use of an interchange with local services.
"There are many arguments for and against the operation of Anglo-Scottish services beyond Edinburgh and Glasgow which have been previously considered as part of our Route Utilisation Strategies work. The benefits of not operating include the ability to operate regular interval domestic services without the disruption of through services, the ability to operate trains with the appropriate number of seats on the Scottish sections of route and the reduction in disruption as a result of late running of through services."
8.27 The current franchise holder for some of the cross-border services, East Coast, outlined some points which they thought should be considered in any decision.
"The operation of East Coast trains beyond Edinburgh incurs identifiable costs in Operating Expenditures (OPEX) and rolling stock. Subject to agreement between the DfT and Transport Scotland the rolling stock freed through the termination of East Coast services at Edinburgh could be utilised to provide a half hourly service between London and Edinburgh. This would bring benefits of frequency from London into the Edinburgh hub and also an increase in frequency to locations in England which are not served by the hourly fast train (Alnmouth, Durham, Northallerton, Doncaster, Newark and Peterborough)."
Organisational and individual responses
8.28 Whilst both organisations and individuals overwhelmingly responded that cross-border services should not terminate at Edinburgh, there were differences between both groups in terms of the remaining top three themes.
8.29 A large proportion of organisations stated that Edinburgh Waverley is already too busy and incapable of handling the extra demand which would be created by terminating cross border services at the station and providing connecting services. This view was particularly prevalent amongst Regional Transport Partnerships and rail groups.
8.30 A far greater proportion of individuals than organisations reported that they could see no benefit to this option.
8.31 Outside the most significant themes, other differences were observed as follows:
- higher proportions of organisations, in particular tourism groups, noted the perceived poorer quality of ScotRail rolling stock compared to that currently used for cross-border services. Whilst the ScotRail rolling stock may not in itself be significantly inferior, organisations appear to believe it does not have the required facilities to transport people long distances
- local authorities and Regional Transport Partnerships noted that termination of cross-border services would be inconsistent with government aims for modal shift and carbon reduction targets, as people would switch to other modes. Individuals did note the modal shift aspect but did not overtly make the connection with government targets
8.32 As with the majority of responses, those of equality groups and members of the general public mirrored answers to Question 29 in that cross-border services should continue as an interchange is a significant problem for those with mobility problems.
"It would be a form of discrimination against those living in Fife, Tayside and Aberdeenshire. Travel to and from these regions will generally be slower than the fastest through services, and having to change in Edinburgh will be particularly burdensome for families with children, the elderly and disabled passengers. I can see no benefits to passengers living North of Edinburgh from having an Edinburgh hub."
8.33 As with the majority of question 30, the geographical analysis replicated responses from question 29, with SEStran generating the highest proportion of responses followed by the HITRANS region, again this is as expected as both regions would be directly affected by the options contained within the consultation document.
8.34 For each of the three key themes, more than 40% of responses originated within the SEStran region illustrating the local strength of feeling against these options. Whilst respondents from the Nestran region provided reasonable numbers of responses supporting key theme 3, noting that interchange is a significant difficulty, particularly for those with luggage or interchange problems. Again, strong responses from the Nestran region could be attributed to respondents from this area will being required to interchange should these options go ahead.