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Caithness News Bulletins April 2004
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CASE FOR RAIL IN THE HIGHLANDS STRONGER THAN EVER
Demand for rail services in the Highlands has grown significantly in recent years according to a major new report published by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
The study challenges perceptions that the Highland rail network is lightly used, dominated by tourist traffic and represents poor value for the public funding it receives. It details how rail contributes significantly to the Highlands and Islands' economy, supporting more than 1,500 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs and underpins the viability of many businesses in the region.
It also describes how the network helps to retain population in more remote areas and provides important onward links to island communities. The report also considers the importance of rail freight and the rail network's environmental benefits.
HIE will use the findings to continue to make the case for further investment in the region's rail network and service improvements in the new ScotRail franchise, which will be awarded later this year.
HIE's transport policy manager Tom Matthew said the research underlined the contribution that rail services already make to the region's well-being as well as the potential benefits of further improvements.
He said: "There is a perception in some quarters of a railway network in terminal decline and both at UK and Scottish levels there is pressure to focus investment on urban rail services. The merits of retaining rail services in less populated areas have been questioned. The image projected is of a lightly-used rail network, used mainly by tourists and providing poor value for the public sector money it receives.
"The report we have commissioned shows this not to be the case. It demonstrates strong passenger growth, a significant economic contribution, social inclusion benefits and relieving pressure on the road network.
"The findings support the strong role that HIE has adopted in support of the rail network. We are the main funder of the rail development group The Highland Rail Partnership, while we are also supporting the Invernet project with £200,000 funding.
"HIE will continue to work with our partners and the rail industry to achieve improvements such as reduced journey times, more frequent and regular services between Aberdeen and Inverness, further rail commuting opportunities and continued growth in rail freight."
The research revealed a significant growth in passenger traffic on Highland lines between the start of the current ScotRail franchise in 1997/98 and 2002/03. The greatest rise (50 per cent) was on the Far North Line between Inverness and Thurso/Wick. This was mainly due to the introduction of a commuter service between Tain and Inverness and the reopening of Beauly Station. The growth on other services was:
· Kyle Line (Inverness-Kyle of Lochalsh) 40 per cent
· Highland Main Line (Inverness-Glasgow/Edinburgh) 35 per cent
· West Highland Line (Glasgow-Oban/Fort William/Mallaig) 20 per cent
Traffic on the Inverness-Aberdeen line as a whole grew by only 13 per cent, which, HIE believes, highlights the need for significant investment and service improvements if it is to realise its full potential. However, the line remains the busiest in the HIE area. Inverness is the busiest station with over 700,000 passengers annually, followed by Elgin at 190,000.
The research reveals that rail contributes substantially to the region's economy. It supports 1,506 FTE jobs, which would not exist without the rail network, even after allowing for "leakage" of expenditure from the Highlands and Islands by local residents who make rail trips to other parts of the country. Around 450 of these are directly or indirectly rail-related, while the remainder are jobs supported by expenditure from leisure and business visitors travelling into the region by rail. Over a third of tourists using the rail network would not visit the area if rail services ceased.
Local people are also important users of the rail network. In the "on-train" surveys carried out for the study, 40 per cent of interviewees were Highlands and Islands residents.
The economic cost of losing the rail network, in terms of additional time, travel costs, loss of the ability to work on the train and other disadvantages to individuals and businesses was calculated at up to £493 million over 30 years.
Rail freight has grown substantially and removes the equivalent of over 25,000 lorry loads and seven million road miles from the road network. The environmental benefit of this has been calculated as £47 million over 30 years. Recent developments have included parcels traffic to Inverness and oil traffic to Lairg and Fort William.
Other key findings include:
· Contribution to social inclusion: 40 per cent of residents questioned in "on train" surveys did not own a car, compared to the average of 25 per cent for the region's population as a whole. 22 per cent of trips on the rail network are undertaken to visit friends and relatives.
· Retention of population: on some lines, over 20 per cent of residents said they would move to a larger town or leave the region entirely if rail services ceased.
· Supporting an integrated transport network: 10 per cent of local people interviewed were island residents. Passengers travelling to/from one of the islands comprised 22 per cent of those surveyed on the Oban line.
· Environmental benefits: new commuter services reduce congestion on roads. Over a 30-year period, the environmental benefits from lower car traffic, through reduced noise, air pollution and other factors, are calculated at £20 million.
Mike Connelly, the Strategic Rail Authority's national communications manager for Scotland said: "The Strategic Rail Authority welcomes the initiative taken by HIE in developing the Case for Rail In the Highlands & Islands. We look forward to giving the document our consideration and we are confident that it's something that can feed into the future Scottish Planning Assessment."
|THE CASE FOR RAIL IN THE HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS
Final Report - March 2004
Prepared for - Highlands and Islands Enterprise
1.1 This Report presents the findings of a study
undertaken by Steer Davies Gleave,
The Case for Rail in the Highlands and Islands
Passenger Rail Demand
1.4 The general trend has been upwards and it is
expected that rail demand will continue
1.8 In terms of social inclusion, access to employment
and education opportunities as well as leisure activities are important
elements of everyday life for residents within local communities in the
Highlands and Islands. Access to activities such as shopping, restaurants
and cinemas are important for the development of sustainable rural
communities. However, many people living in remote areas require to travel
significant distances in order to access these facilities, for which the
rail network is an
1.9 Passengers travelling on the Fort William sleeper
were in the main undertaking a
1.10 In contrast there was a more balanced mix of
journey purposes on the Inverness
1.11 Residents tend to travel more frequently on sleeper
services than non-residents, with
1.12 The sleeper service is important to Highland and Islands resident business travellers as it provides an opportunity to travel overnight to London, conduct a day’s business and return the following day. The attraction of the sleeper service is that it should allow users to make more productive use of their time by travelling overnight. Similarly, the link exists for customers, suppliers and other company locations to make visits to the Highlands and Islands more easily.
Economic Impact Valuation: EALI Impacts
1.14 As the basis for both approaches it was necessary
to define a counterfactual scenario
1.15 The real economy approach considers the benefits at
the level of the Highlands and
1.16 Where users change their travel behaviour there are
real economy impacts, for
1.17 We estimate that a total of 1,506 FTE jobs in the Highlands and Islands would be lost if the rail network were to close. Of these, 400 FTE jobs would be lost directly and after allowing for offsetting growth in other transport sectors and multiplier effects, the net effect would be 476 FTE jobs; in addition there would be an estimated 1,080 FTE jobs lost due to changes in business and leisure travel plus associated multiplier effects. Additionally, the closure of the rail network would bring about creation of some 50 FTE jobs which currently do not exist because people are able to work on trains. The latter finding is based on assumptions which are consistent with the transport economic analysis. This and a 30-year assessment of impacts are discussed in a separate appendix (Technical Report 1: Economic Analysis).
Social Welfare Valuation: TEE Impacts
1.19 The welfare loss is driven by the busier lines
(Highland Main and Aberdeen Lines),
1.20 Losses to business account for £227 million of the
total loss calculated. Of this
1.23 It is unlikely that there will any real impact
across the sector or that costs incurred
1.24 Movement of goods by road would increase in the absence of rail: an extra 7.3 million lorry road miles and more than 25,000 lorry loads.
1.25 The costs associated with each route are applied to
the number of lorry miles and
Accidents and Maintenance
1.27 As rail travel has well publicised environmental
advantages over other modes the loss