Local Green MSP Calls on Councillors to confirm Milngavie rail support
Green MSP Ross Greer has written to the leaders of each party on East Dunbartonshire Council calling on them to confirm their support for plans to redual the Milngavie line and build an Allander Station.
The line, which has frequently shown very poor punctuality standards in the 30 years since it was reduced to a single track, has been the subject of a longrunning campaign by Ross Greer to restore the second track and add a new station near the Allander Leisure Centre. Last year the Scottish Government announced plans for the line to become part of the proposed Clyde Metro network, a move that would mean more trains and better connections to more locations across the Greater Glasgow area.
Greer raised the issue with the then Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth in March of this year. Whilst confirming that the Metro project would “have an extensive impact in relation to the delivery of services locally”, the Minister suggested that East Dunbartonshire Council’s Transport Policy is a potential block to progress. Specifically, Ms Gilruth referred to a deeply flawed study commissioned by the Council in 2019 which used an English rather than Scottish methodology before recommending against redualling the line on the basis of ‘value for money’.
Mr Greer has written to council leaders urging them to agree a cross party statement confirming that they disown the study and instead support the conclusions of three previous studies using the correct methodology, all of which were positive about redualling and/or the addition of an Allander Station.
Mr Greer is meeting the new Transport Minister, Kevin Stewart, next month and is urging council leaders to agree to such a statement ahead of this meeting. The local Green MSP intends to encourage the Minister to support a return to 4-trains per hour throughout the day, redualling the track and constructing an Allander Station as soon as possible.
Greer, Green MSP for the West of Scotland, commented:
“Milngavie and Bearsden need rail improvements and I know that the Clyde Metro plans will be a huge boost to the local public transport network. But it’s frustrating that the case for improvements continues to be undermined by a highly flawed study which should never have been published. For example, it uses the English “WebTAG” methodology which is effectively designed to rule out investment in infrastructure. It assumes the use of a configuration of train which simply doesn’t exist in Scotland, and it incorrectly states that the single track runs down the middle of the corridor, when in fact it runs on one side, leaving space for easy redualling.”
“All parties on the council at one time or another have supported redualling and the council’s Local Transport Strategy commits to keeping the option of an Allander Station on the table. Yet councillors who commissioned, then refused to clearly disown, the flawed report continue to put leaflets through our doors telling residents they back redualling. I hope we can move forward and speak with one voice on this.”
Letter sent from Ross Greer MSP to Councillors Gordan Low, Vaughan Moody, Alan Moir, Billy Hendry and Duncan Cumming
As you’ll be aware, punctuality on the Milngavie rail line has been a cause for concern for many years. Despite recent improvements, it’s clear that the underlying problem, which prevents a truly reliable service with at least 4 trains per hour throughout the day and a new Allander station, is the remaining sections of single-track line.
The Scottish Government’s recent STPR2 commits to delivering the Clyde Metro network, which is anticipated to include more regular trains to Milngavie. I have been working hard to push the Scottish Government to agree to redualling the track in the first stage of this project, alongside a new Allander station.
There has often been cross-party agreement in East Dunbartonshire in support of both redualling and of the Allander station. The Local Transport Strategy 2020-5 and LDP2 clearly commit to keeping land available for the proposed Station and the LTS (in action 33) commits to further STAG appraisal looking at options for improving performance of the line.
East Dunbartonshire Council’s studies commissioned in 2005 (Atkins), 2008 (Faber Maunsell) and 2015 (AECOM) have all been very positive about the impact of adding an Allander Station, and (at least by implication, given that redualling is widely acknowledged as a prerequisite for the station) redoubling the line. However, despite the majority of existing evidence being positive about redualling, I’m concerned that weight is still being given to WSP’s 2018/9 study. While it is undeniable that this reached a negative conclusion, this is the only one of the four studies to do so, and had the following serious flaws:
- The methodology fails to use Scotland’s STAG methodology and instead uses WebTAG, a system used by the Department for Transport in England to define whether projects represent low, medium or high value for money. Unlike the STAG approach, it does not consider the wider benefits a project could bring to the local transport system and community. Successful projects such as the Borders Railway would have been similarly dismissed as poor value for money under WebTAG
- This methodology gives no weight to the benefits that redualling would bring in improving the punctuality of the existing service
- The conclusion is based on the statement that ‘the existing railway line runs down the centre of the rail corridor’. This is simply factually untrue. The remaining track is still in the position it was before the second track was removed in 1990, meaning that a second line could be added far more easily than the study suggests
- The costs are based on 4-car trains used in the North of England and not on 3-car units used by Scotrail, and
- The preferred options of expanding the car park at Milngavie station has little support locally. Supporting a quality bus corridor along the A81, Milngavie Road, would be welcome, but certainly isn’t mutually exclusive to improving the rail line
As an example of the problems this flawed study is creating, when I asked the (then) Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth to commit to redualling being prioritised in the early stages of the Clyde Metro on March 2, she caveated her response by stating:
“…. I also note that work that the local council, East Dunbartonshire Council, did with regard to its local transport strategy in 2019 concluded that having a standalone station at Allander, in combination with double tracking, which the member mentioned, offered poor value for money. Instead, the council preferred a bus-based option to improve access to existing rail services.”
I am therefore writing to ask all groups on the council to make a clear and unequivocal statement that redualling the Milngavie Line and opening an Allander Station are a priority for East Dunbartonshire Council, commit to supporting this through future policy and strategy and to confirm that the flaws in the WSP 2018/19 study make it an inappropriate source of evidence for further decision-making.
I look forward to hearing your views on how a clear statement can be achieved.