Cumbernauld may be on track for railway line electrification

CUMBERNAULD could see sparks fly in years to come - if plans to electrify the rail line by 2016 are given the green light.

Transport Scotland has touched on the proposals in a new Strategic Transport Projects Review - and if approved, the move would be welcomed by a group representing Cumbernauld commuters.

The issue is already of some vintage as it was announced to Parliament on September 27, 2007 as a preferred strategy - along with an electrified railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow Queen Street including diversion routes, and lines to Dunblane and Alloa.

It was seen in a study as an improvement to the capacity, frequency and journey time of rail services as well as bettering access to jobs by both employers and employees, reducing emissions and increasing public transport capacity.

The costs, including the Edinburgh-Glasgow electrification, have been estimated to be in the range of 500m-1bn, and it is also believed that the necessary infrastructure could be delivered by 2016.

Responding to the proposals, Andrew Stephen, secretary of Cumbernauld Commuters' Assoc-iation, said: "The electrification of the line to and through Cumbernauld has been mooted since the Cumbernauld Commuters' Association was inaugurated in the mid 1970s - initially to help promote and encourage the development of the rail service at Cumbernauld.

"At that time the only rail service was the diesel shuttle to Springburn - started on November 1966 when the direct route from Glasgow Buchanan Street station closed - with passengers having to transfer to and from an electric train to and from Glasgow Queen Street Low Level.

"The station at Cumbernauld would have closed at the same time if it had not been for the New Town and the then Minister of Transport's refusal for consent - hence the 'stop-gap' introduction of the shuttle to Springburn."

He says this service became more and more unreliable but direct access was then allowed to and from Queen Street High Level - the services that we know today - and that new stations have opened on the route at Stepps, Gartcosh and Greenfaulds and the route extended through to Falkirk Grahamston.

"New diesel units provide a great improvement over the old stock they replace! Since the late 1990s and early 2000s there has been very little for the Commuters' Association to 'complain about' as they current service is very reliable in comparison to previously.

"However, the ultimate improvement sought is electrification, as the ensuing 'sparks effect', as it is known, pays dividends in many ways. It instantly lifts the profile of a rail route, produces even better reliability and has a 'modern' image.

"One only has to look at the boost that the current rebuilding and electrification of the Airdrie-Bathgate route has already given to West Lothian and those parts of North Lanarkshire which will benefit in 2010/11 - which will enable through journeys e.g. from Dunbar to Helensburgh.

"The electrification of the Cumbernauld route is seen as part-and-parcel of the first tranche of 'wiring-up', i.e. the entire electrification of the rail network on the Glasgow-Edinburgh-Stirling/Dunblane/Alloa via Falkirk High, Falkirk Grahamston and Cumbernauld lines.

"This, of course, includes the rail routes via Lenzie/Croy and that from Motherwell/Coatbridge Central, so Cumbernauld and district will gain three electrified rail routes/services with a totally recast timetable promising enhanced journey times and new journey opportunities e.g. Motherwell-Coatbridge-Cumbernauld-Larbert-Stirling."

Mr Stehen added: "It's very good news for transport at Cumbernauld and I just hope that the credit squeeze etc doesn't put the kibosh on things - e.g. there's a furore about the 'funding' for the new Forth Road Bridge and other 'transport projects!"