By a Newsnet reporter
The Scottish Greens have called for public ownership of railways and more investment in the Highland main line, to counter what they claim will be the effects of dualling the A9.
Using the debate on railways in the Scottish Parliament to rally support for public ownership, co-convenor Patrick Harvie said that prioritising roads came at the expense of rail.
The amendment by the Green-Independent group to the government’s motion highlighted what they say is the opportunity presented by independence to remove the constraints of UK legislation which favours privatisation.
Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow and transport spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:
“Privatised railways are a massive failed experiment. We’ve seen East Coast turned around under public ownership but bizarrely the UK Government sees this as a reason to flog it off.
“Meanwhile the Scottish Government’s road-building priorities risk making rail uncompetitive on price and journey times. They’ve earmarked billions for dualling the A9 but have little to say on upgrades to the Highland main line.
“The cost of purchasing and running a car has fallen over the last ten years, while rail fares have gone through the roof. The attraction of a publicly-owned or not-for-profit railway has never been greater. It would improve access for all, get HGVs off our congested roads and boost our economy for the long-term.”
A UK wide poll carried out in September 2012 suggested almost three quarters of people wanted railways brought under public ownership. An even bigger number wanted all profits from railways re-invested in the industry.
Meanwhile the Scottish government has announced it is to electrify one of Scotland’s key routes four years ahead of schedule.
The Whifflet line, which sees Coatbridge linked to Glasgow using diesel operated rolling stock, will be electrified in time for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “I was delighted to announce that the Scottish government has approved industry plans to bring forward the electrification of the Whifflet route in time for the games next summer, some four years ahead of schedule.
“Delivery of the deal…will allow greater flexibility in deploying trains to help meet passenger demand during the games, as well as free up rolling stock to run elsewhere on the network, including during the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September 2014.”