Railway Infrastructure

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 22 February 2024.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Labour

5. To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to ensure that railway infrastructure is safe and fit for the future. (S6O-03114)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Safety of the railway is a key priority for the Scottish ministers, although it is ultimately a matter that is reserved to the United Kingdom Government. The Office of Rail and Road, which is the independent rail regulator, is responsible for ensuring that Network Rail meets its safety responsibilities and determines the appropriate funding. The Scottish Government has fully funded Network Rail Scotland in line with the ORR’s recommendations, and it is investing record sums in rail, with total funding of £1.6 billion for the rail sector in Scotland in 2024-25. That compares with pre-pandemic levels of £0.9 billion to £1 billion.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Labour

Springburn railway station does not offer step-free access, which makes it inaccessible to wheelchair users. The Scottish Government must do all that is within its gift to ensure equal access to Scotland’s railways. Will the minister make representation to the Department for Transport to press for access for all scheme funding for control period 7, so that much-needed improvements can be made at last to Springburn railway station?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I understand that Paul Sweeney has just written to me, and I think that I have just replied—it might have been a written question. As he recognises, the accessibility programme and funding that he alluded to are the responsibility of the UK Government. Like him, I will ensure that accessibility is a key priority in my discussions with Network Rail, the ORR and others. Indeed, I will leave the Parliament this afternoon to have a meeting with mobility and access groups.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

Tragically, a train derailment at Carmont on the Aberdeen to Dundee line in 2020 resulted in the loss of three lives. What work has been done to improve safety and resilience on the Aberdeen to Dundee line?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Our thoughts remain first and foremost with all those who were affected by the tragic accident at Carmont.

Although, as I have said, rail safety is reserved to the UK Government, Scottish ministers are committed to doing everything that we can to prevent accidents and ensure that passengers travel safely on our rail network. Network Rail, which has overall responsibility for the network, is addressing the infrastructure recommendations that are set out in the Rail Accident Investigation Branch’s report, which followed that tragic derailment.

For example, there is better management of civil engineering construction activities by Network Rail and its contractors, and operational responses to extreme rainfall events have improved through the use of the full capability of modern technology and a detailed understanding of the risks that are associated with extreme rainfall, as well as other matters. As I set out in my previous answer, we are fully funding maintenance and future proofing.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

T he report into Carmont showed that the class 43 high-speed trains were thought to be partially responsible for the consequences. When will the class 43 be replaced?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The question on infrastructure covers the network infrastructure. The member is referring to the fleet itself, so I refer him to the reports on Carmont.

I have had discussions with the unions and ScotRail about future provision. As the member might be aware, we are looking carefully at the timing and when, in relation to other matters, the fleet will be replaced.