Rail Services (Fife)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 26th June 2003.

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Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat 2:30 pm, 26th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what opportunities there will be to increase rail services to and from Fife under the next rail franchise. (S2O-263)

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

The new franchise will contain a mechanism to enable new services to be introduced into the franchise throughout its life. In addition, new rolling stock, in conjunction with platform lengthening, will enhance railway services in Fife over the coming months.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

The minister will be aware of the capacity problems that affect the ability to deliver new rail services in Fife, in particular the problems at Waverley, and the need to redevelop Waverley station. Can the minister give me an assurance that he is doing all that he can to ensure that that redevelopment goes ahead? Also, will he join me on a commuter service to Fife to see for himself the extent of the overcrowding problems on the rails to and from Fife?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

On the latter question, I experience some of those problems when I use the train to the north-east, but I would be pleased during the summer period to take up Iain Smith's generous offer.

On other on-going initiatives, I can assure Iain Smith that, in partnership with others, we are working hard to come forward with proposals in relation to Waverley station. I expect the proposals to become public over the summer months.

We are working to deliver longer platforms, new trains and increased capacity. The improvements that I announced in the Parliament, for example the new link on the Stirling to Alloa to Kincardine line, afford the opportunity for improved services into Fife. We are determined to tackle overcrowding, improve reliability and improve the overall quality of services into Fife.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

While I welcome the minister's comments, I express surprise, given his answer to a written question last week. When the minister was asked about the information that he had on the capacity and usage of lines between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, he said that the information was not held centrally. When he was asked what direction and guidance the Executive had given to the Strategic Rail Authority regarding capacity and usage on that line, he said that it was not a matter for the Executive, but for the Strategic Rail Authority. How can the minister make bland promises when he does not know the existing situation on the line, and he has no control over future events?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

Kenny MacAskill understands how the rail system in the UK works, but some of his contributions in the chamber tend to suggest otherwise. The system is simple: the information that he is talking about is held, as it should be, by the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail. The information that relates to Scotland is shared openly with the Scottish Executive, and we plan things together, in partnership.

Photo of Marilyn Livingstone Marilyn Livingstone Labour

As a regular Fife commuter, I look forward to increased capacity on the line. However, if we are going to encourage people from Fife to travel to Edinburgh by train, what plans are there to increase the number of car parking spaces, especially in my constituency of Kirkcaldy, where parking is a problem?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

We have invested significantly in park-and-ride facilities across Scotland. As Marilyn Livingstone will know, one of the most successful park-and-ride facilities is the one that is developing, and indeed expanding, in Fife. If there are opportunities to do more, we will want to invest more. That is part of our commitment to investing more in public transport.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

While I do not wish to join the dynamic duo of Messrs Stephen and Smith on their journey into Fife, I assure them that these days it is definitely a journey into hell. The overcrowding on the trains is something to behold. When the minister is considering rail services into Fife, will he also add his support to the campaign to restore the rail link between Leuchars junction and St Andrews, which has been campaigned for for many years?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

The proper way to develop local projects such as that is, in the first instance, through the local authority. More schemes to develop the rail network in Scotland are being developed now by the Executive, in conjunction with local partnerships, than have been developed in recent decades.

We should remember that one of the reasons that we have overcrowding is growth in the passenger usage of our rail services. We want to see further growth. When it occurs, we will take steps to improve the rolling stock and to increase capacity. That is the commitment of the Executive.