Geographer SUMMER 2017
The newsletter of
the Royal Scottish Geographical Society
Down the Tracks The Future of Rail
“Railways are irresistible bazaars, snaking along perfectly level no matter what the landscape, improving your mood with speed, and never upsetting your drink.” Paul Theroux
• Electrifying and Regenerating Rail • Freight and Faster Links • Tourism, Travel and Time to Think • North Korea and the Climate of Trump • Canada’s Links with Scotland • Reconnecting Communities: Perth, Borders, Fife, Argyll, Aberdeenshire • Reader Offer: The Making of the British Landscape
plus news, books, and more…
cotland’s railway is going through one of the biggest transformations since Victorian times, involving significant modernisation, electrification, and the replacement and refurbishment of large numbers of trains over the next three or four years. It is a good time then to reflect on some of the historical value of the railway, to hear different perspectives on the current challenges and opportunities that rail presents to Scotland’s life and economy, and to hear about the various options for improving the railway further and truly bringing it into the 21st century.
The origin of rail was in getting coal from the coalfields to industry or the ports, rivalling and eventually displacing more expensive canals. After coal trains came cattle trains, fish trains and even milk trains as more and more freight took to rail. And as the lines became more and more developed, snaking their way along flat ground, flowing beside rivers, and across flat straths, the railway became more and more widely used for personal transport and tourism, and the predominance of freight traffic gave way to passengers. They now have a fundamental role in our transport infrastructure – moving large numbers of people into and between our cities. The railway in Scotland was a fragmented grouping of companies who managed each section. For example, in the 1920s more than 20 companies owned and operated railways, under two main groupings – the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). Is this complex pattern of historical ownership the reason the current railway structure remains so complicated? In the late 19th century there were also far more lines than there are today, and incredibly some of these allowed faster journeys between Scottish cities than is possible today. Along with the economic push to ensure rail journeys are far quicker between our cities, there are growing voices to see more rail freight and other tracks and spurs reinstated or rebuilt to reconnect communities which have been left adrift since the Beeching and other cuts. Train travel is more popular now than ever, with record numbers of passengers, so this is a great opportunity to consider how we want to develop them further and what we want the future of rail in Scotland to look like. Mike Robinson, Chief Executive RSGS, Lord John Murray House, 15-19 North Port, Perth, PH1 5LU tel: 01738 455050 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.rsgs.org Charity registered in Scotland no SC015599 The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the RSGS. Cover image: © Mike Robinson Masthead image: Forth Bridge. © VisitScotland
RSGS: a better way to see the world
Robert Gordon Bartholomew (1927-2017) Margaret Wilkes FRSGS For over 130 years, members of the Bartholomew family have been deeply involved in mapmaking and in RSGS affairs, commencing with RSGS’s co-founder, John George Bartholomew (1860-1920), and with his son John (Captain Ian) and his grandson John Christopher later being very active Presidents of our Society. Sadly on 30th April, Robert Bartholomew, the last of John George’s grandsons to have been involved in the world-famous family mapmaking and publishing firm of John Bartholomew & Sons – as its Director of Production – passed away. His passing serves to remind us of Edinburgh’s great mapmaking past. Robert (Robbie) was a diligent supporter of RSGS, attending our Edinburgh evening talks until a couple of years ago, and contributing to the funding of such special projects as RSGS’s Croll Garden in Perth and the restoration of our pedestal globe produced by one of Bartholomew’s great mapmaking rivals, W & A K Johnston. It was a delight a few years back to welcome him, his daughter Elspeth and his younger brother Alick (died 2015) to our newly refurbished premises in Perth, where he displayed his characteristic interest in the Society’s new developments.
Perth painting progressing Rob Hain’s painting of Perth is coming along nicely, and we can’t wait to see the finished result. We are still hopeful that somebody might buy the original (please speak to Mike if you are interested), but our plan is to sell, in conjunction with Edinburgh Art Shop, limited edition prints in the Fair Maid’s House and through The Geographer, to raise money for RSGS. Rob gave us this update: “The Concert Hall proved to be a tricky subject to get right. It came to life when I painted in the reflection of the Museum and Art Gallery as well as another older house in the new development. Though there is still a bit of tweaking to do with the rest of the composition, everything is falling nicely into place and I have to say I’m enjoying every moment exploring the Fair City!”
We are planning to hold a special fundraising dinner on Saturday 4th November, in Perth Concert Hall, to raise money for RSGS. Every table will seat one of our key contacts or speakers, and a guest of honour will give a highly entertaining interview. Details are still to be firmed up, but please contact Mike or Gemma at RSGS HQ if you are interested in finding out more.
RSGS Members’ Survey
please tell us what you think
Included in the envelope with this edition of The Geographer, members will find a copy of our members’ survey. We would be grateful if you could take some time to fill it in and share your thoughts on RSGS and Geography with us. You can also complete the survey online.
news Geographer The
Dr Kim Crosbie FRSGS
Explorers-in-Residence If you follow us on social media, you will have noticed that we recently announced Luke and Hazel Robertson as our newest Explorers-in-Residence. They join Craig Mathieson in the role and we are very happy to welcome them to RSGS.
RSGS Board Member Margaret Wilkes presenting the Honorary Fellowship to Dr Kim Crosbie, daughter of Edinburgh geographers Nicola Crosbie (second from left) and the late Dr Sandy Crosbie FRSGS, attended by Bruce Gittings.
In February, Dr Kim Crosbie, until recently the Executive Director of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, received an Honorary Fellowship from RSGS in recognition of her research in the polar regions and her work developing sustainable tourism in the Antarctic. Kim then gave a talk entitled The Pull of the Poles to a large audience in Edinburgh.
Young Geographer at Holyrood
Anatolian camel culture and wrestling We are delighted to have received, from the Mayor of İncirliova in the Aydin province of Turkey, a copy of A World Cultural Heritage: Anatolian Camel Dealing Culture and Camel Wrestles, a fascinating book by Associate Professor Vedat Çalişkan of the Department of Geography at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. We are adding the book to our library in the Explorers’ Room of the Fair Maid’s House, so do come and visit us if you would like to see it.
On your bike
book a ticket
The fifth Edinburgh Festival of Cycling (8th-18th June 2017) is a showcase for all aspects of cycle culture, featuring a wide range of cycle rides, family activities and cultural events. This year RSGS will be taking part in a discussion on Sunday 11th June (10.00-11.00am) at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, centring on “exploring by bike” and how getting ‘on your bike’ can help you broaden your horizons both locally and internationally. Visit edfoc.org.uk for details and to book a ticket (£10, or £9 concession).
On 14th May they started out on their current expedition, Due North: Alaska, aiming to kayak the Inside Passage to Haines, cycle 650 miles to Fairbanks (passing through the Yukon region of Canada), run 550 miles to Deadhorse, and finally kayak 300 miles from the coast to Nuvuk. We look forward to introducing you all to Hazel and Luke in the future – once they are in the country long enough! In the meantime, please follow us and them on social media or see the RSGS website for updates on their progress.
Scotland’s Towns Understanding Scottish Places (www.usp.scot) is a freeto-use web-based platform providing consistent and comparable data for 479 Scottish towns. It includes data on socio-demographics, services, town functions, social capital, commuter flows, tourist bed places, grant funding, diversity of retail offer, population and employment change over time, and new and original descriptions of each town. The data platform has become the starting point for discussion, strategy and policy, as envisaged conceptually by the Fraser Review and practically by the Understanding Scottish Places consortium. The project was commissioned and funded by the Scottish Government and the Carnegie UK Trust, and was carried out by a consortium of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling and the Carnegie UK Trust.
In February, the Young Geographer Editor Fiona Cuthill attended ‘The Future is Now’ at the Scottish Parliament, hosted by Scottish Environment LINK. The event allowed Fiona to promote the magazine to MSPs and others. The Young Geographer is the first Geographer magazine to be written by a team of under-30s and was a special edition. Copies are available from RSGS Local Groups, digitally on rsgs.org, or by contacting the office team.
Between them, Luke and Hazel have an impressive list of adventurous achievements. From becoming the youngest Brit and the first Scot to ski 730 miles solo and unsupported to the South Pole (Luke), to completing the 140-mile Ice Ultra on snowshoes in Arctic Sweden (Hazel), to running the infamous 156-mile Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara (both), these two are adventurers through and through.
Impact Day RSGS plans to run an Impact Day in Stirling on 9th September, at which our President Professor Iain Stewart and Board Member Vanessa Collingridge will help researchers to maximise the profile of geographical research, and will assist students and young academics in communicating their work more 9th effectively. This whole-day event will feature a series September of structured exercises and workshops, concluding with a dinner for participants and a chance to build the links between universities, policy bodies and funding councils. Please contact us at RSGS HQ if you are interested in attending.
2 SUMMER 2017
Just a few days before they left for Alaska, our newest Explorersin-Residence, Luke and Hazel Robertson, met a group of school children in the Explorers’ Room. Pupils from Balbeggie Primary School brought plenty of enthusiasm and questions with them. They heard about and saw pictures of the explorers’ various adventures, from the South Pole to the Sahara, and there was much hilarity when the class got to try on expedition clothing and taste expedition food – the Jelly Babies were unanimously preferred to the couscous ‘cooked’ in a plastic bottle. The session with the primary school was videoed for Glow TV, to develop into a teaching resource with Education Scotland. Glow is Scotland’s national online environment for learning, used by both education practitioners and pupils. On their return from Alaska, we want to work with Luke and Hazel and Education Scotland to develop imaginative educational resources for schools, as part of our Making an Impact project – please help us if you can, by contributing to the current fundraising appeal.
Making an Impact – appeal
A survey carried out in March on behalf of the consumer champion Which? found that the majority of UK rail passengers were experiencing overcrowded, delayed or dirty train journeys. Passengers were asked what problems they had experienced over the previous six months. More than half (53%) said they could not get a seat due to overcrowding at least once, with one in seven (15%) saying that this occurred to them regularly. Most people (51%) had experienced train delays of up to 15 minutes, and around one in ten (12%) said they had faced frequent delays. The survey also found that consumer trust in the UK rail industry fell from 37% in March 2016 to 26% in March 2017, and one in five people (20%) believed that rail should be a key priority for the next Government. Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, said, “Trust can only begin to be restored by introducing an independent, statutory ombudsman, and a stronger regulator that stands up for passengers.”
Anne goes part-time Anne Daniel, our Office and Events Assistant here at HQ, whom many of you will have met and spoken to, has dropped to parttime, now working Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesday mornings. We are hoping to fill the remaining half of her role.
Coral reefs’ value
please help us if you can
If we can raise sufficient funding, we want to make an impact in schools by organising inspirational talks and developing imaginative teaching resources, in universities by offering small grants and training young academics in effectively communicating their research, and in the community by enabling some of our inspiring young people to reach wider audiences.
The Elders appeal to the US The Elders have called on the United States to reaffirm its support for the Paris Agreement on climate change, and to show leadership and ambition in tackling the threat posed by global warming. They expressed concern at the recent proposal by President Trump to slash US funding for the Green Climate Fund. Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders, said, “The Paris Agreement is one of the most significant diplomatic achievements in recent years. It gives hope to the whole world that serious action on climate change is both possible and achievable. Leadership from the United States is vital to ensure full implementation and I hope the new Administration will honour the commitments made in Paris in 2015.”
Computer-led analysis of 20 million images uploaded to Flickr has estimated that coral reefs contribute $36 billion per year to the global tourist economy. Researchers were able to assess details of visits to reefs and tourists’ spending nearby, and to differentiate the value of water-based activities (such as diving and boat trips) from associated costs such as spending in hotels and restaurants. Some 70 million trips a year worldwide can be attributed to the draw of coral reefs. Dr Philine zu Ermgassen of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences said, “Coral reefs are valuable to local economies across the world. More than 70 countries and territories in the world have million-dollar reefs. These generate jobs and earnings for many small island states with few alternative sources of employment and income.”
RSGS wholeheartedly believes in the importance of engaging young people, from primary school children to young academic researchers. Thanks to the foundations we have laid in recent years, we are now in an excellent position to make an impact with more young people, and we are currently appealing to our members and supporters to help us do so.
Overcrowded and delayed
Learning from explorers
Svalbard Global Seed Vault After nine years of operation, Svalbard Global Seed Vault is facing technical improvements in connection with water intrusion in the outer part of the access tunnel. The seeds in the vault have not © Hollan Studio / Statsbygg been threatened, but precautionary security measures will include constructing drainage ditches on the mountainside to prevent meltwater from Platåfjellet accumulating around the access tunnel, and constructing waterproof walls inside the tunnel.
news Geographer The
16thJune – 12th November An exhibition that celebrates the Antarctic legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley is coming to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, from 16th June to 12th November 2017. One of the greatest ever photographic records of human survival, Enduring Eye honours the achievements of Shackleton and the men of the Endurance expedition of 1914-17.
The Endurance stuck in ice.
Enduring Eye has been created by the Royal Geographical Society, with additional items on show from the National Library of Scotland’s polar collections.
Plastic apocalypse? Henderson Island, part of the UK-owned Pitcairn Islands, has recently received the ignominious label of having the highest density of plastic pollution anywhere in the world. The remote island, which is listed by UNESCO as a coral atoll and which sits some 3,000 miles from Chile, has been found to have at least 671 items of plastic per square metre, some 17 tonnes in total. Many charities and organisations are working to raise awareness of plastic pollution and to make a difference to this growing problem. One such organisation is Plastiki, led by Jo Royle, whose work was recognised by RSGS in 2010 with the Geddes Environment Medal. Jo and the crew of the Plastiki collected 12,500 plastic bottles and used them to build a boat which they sailed from San Francisco to Sydney. The Plastiki voyage gained worldwide publicity and brought attention to the issues of plastic in our oceans, highlighting the fact that the same amount of plastic pulled from the oceans to build Plastiki ends up in the water every 8.3 seconds. For more on these stories and to find out how you can change your plastic consumption, head to the RSGS blog.
RCGS Award for Attenborough Our Chief Executive was a guest of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) in London recently, attending an event at Canada House with broadcasting legend Sir David Attenborough FRSGS, who was presented with the RCGS Gold Medal following a Q&A session with fellow BBC presenter Dan Snow. Over the course of the 30-minute discussion, Attenborough shared his thoughts on everything from the future of public broadcasting to Trump to the importance of teachers, demonstrating his singular gift for communication and his passion for the planet, stating at one point that “as a species we are in the worst situation we have ever been in.” RCGS CEO John Geiger told guests, “In the last century, there is no-one who has said or done more than Sir David to bring the importance of geography and the environment into the public consciousness.” Attenborough thanked the RCGS and praised the ongoing work of geographical societies worldwide, which he said have a more important role today than ever in helping us to understand “not the shape of the land, which you can do with satellites, but how it works, why it works, how vulnerable it is and how essential it is, because at the moment we are not showing much understanding of our actions.”
Gordon G Ruffle – legacy gift In March we were grateful to receive £18,750 as the second instalment of a legacy bequest from Gordon Ruffle of North Berwick, who died in early 2014. Mr Ruffle had been an RSGS Member for over 60 years, and was the Society’s Accountant for over 30 years, and we greatly appreciate his continuing support. Legacies have been vital to RSGS’s existence for well over a century, and they are just as vital today. Please consider helping RSGS into the future by writing a bequest into your Will. If you would like to know more, please contact Mike or Susan on 01738 455050.
Scottish Government climate plans
New £1 coins – thank you!
Mike Robinson was invited to attend a meeting of the Scottish Government and the UKCCC, to discuss plans to reconsider Scotland’s climate targets later this year. The plan is to better account for changes to the 1990 baseline, and to reflect the renewed urgency for the international community to avoid a 1.5°C rise in global temperature as identified in the Paris Climate Agreement which came into effect at the end of last year. See page 17 for more detail.
Thank you to everyone who has sent in their new one-pound coins. The office staff are always cheered to see your donations arriving on their bits of cardboard. If you would still like to send in a pound coin (or five, as one of our generous members did) then please do. It’s certainly a different way to make a donation, but if all of our members contributed we could fund a small project.
Sharing knowledge Our Chief Executive has been busy with a series of public talks – most notably giving the keynote address at a studentled conference (The Climate and Sustainability Project) at the University of Strathclyde Law School with the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance. The workshop focused on ‘mainstreaming’ International Environmental Law in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mike was asked to share his experience, in particular regarding the domestic legislative process around climate change, its practical delivery, and the promotion of international example. He has also continued to give talks to several other organisations – some about RSGS’s work in general, and some specifically about James Croll, the 19th-century scientist from Perth.
A special wedding venue We were delighted to host a wedding in the Fair Maid’s House in March. Gillian Agnew, the daughter of one of our volunteers, married her longterm partner Alex Hendry in the Explorers’ Room, with a reception downstairs. It was a very relaxed affair, with all involved – registrar, piper and caterers – being friends of the happy couple. We have another wedding booked for July: the couple are keen travellers and love the atmosphere of the Explorers’ Room!
4 SUMMER 2017
Exhibitions at RSGS
Doors Open Day
Over the summer, we are pleased to be hosting several new exhibitions at the Fair Maid’s House.
Doors Open Day is a national architectural heritage event that welcomes the public into buildings that they might not usually visit. As our visitor centre, the Fair Maid’s House, is the oldest secular building in Perth, we are delighted to participate again.
Running from 6th to 17th June, Hand in Glove is an art exhibition from pupils at Perth Academy supported by The Perth Incorporation of Glovers – a modern interpretation of a bygone craft which once played a large role in Perth’s cultural and economic story.
For Doors Open Day in this year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we will have a special display in the Cuthbert Map Room – a selection of maps and plans on the theme of archaeology, both early and industrial. We will be open from 11.00am to 4.30pm on Saturday 16th September, and hope you can join us then.
come and visit
Hand in Glove.
In September, two members of Perth Visual Arts Forum, Clare Yarrington and Pauline McGee, will stage an exhibition called Remains in the Landscape, with artworks for sale. Clare and Pauline will be present on some Saturdays – definitely on Doors Open Day, 16th September – so come along and ‘meet the artists’! And in October we hope to stage an exhibition by young photographer George Rees.
Magic Moments. © Pauline McGee
The Great Horizon – update We are pleased to have this positive update on the book we are planning to publish later this year, from its author, Jo Woolf, our Writer-in-Residence.
As a bonus, Perthshire artists Clare Yarrington and Pauline McGee will also be in attendance.
My favourite place in Scotland Moffat, Claire Powell Moffat is a beautiful bustling border town, surrounded by steep majestic mountains, lots of independent local shops, and a huge array of geographic features. When travelling around Moffat towards the Grey Mare’s Tail, I spotted meanders, truncated spurs, cut offs, moraines, arêtes, pyramidal peaks, knickpoints and all the features a physical geographer, such as myself, loves! An incredible landscape with a small community atmosphere and an excellent sweet shop. I will definitely be making a trip back there as soon as I can.
“The Great Horizon is progressing very nicely. I’ve just finished writing about my last explorer – RSGS Explorer-in-Residence, Craig Mathieson – so the 50 ‘tales of exploration’ are complete. I’m now working with Sandstone Press on the editing, and we are starting to put the first section together. The book will be in five sections, each containing ten explorers. The sections are named Ice, Voyagers, Heaven and Earth, Missionaries and Mavericks, and Visions for Change. There’s an exciting mix of well-known and unfamiliar faces spanning the entire timeline of the RSGS. “I’m absolutely thrilled by the positive response from RSGS members and would like to say a very big thank you for the preorders and words of encouragement. It’s an honour to be doing this, and I hope you enjoy reading The Great Horizon as much as I have enjoyed writing it.” If you have not yet ordered a copy of the book (at £25) but would like to, please contact RSGS HQ.
Tiso Outdoor Experience Cardholder events Over the past few months we have been taking part in Tiso Outdoor Experience Cardholder events across the country. We have been promoting RSGS, membership and talks at all of Tiso’s larger stores in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Perth. Both HQ staff and our volunteers reported that our stall attracted lots of interest and we handed out plenty of copies of The Geographer and other RSGS literature. Thank you to Tiso for hosting us and to our volunteers for manning the stalls.
© Claire Powell
Diana Murray FRSGS In February, Diana Murray, formerly Chief Executive of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, and recently also joint CEO of Historic Scotland, was presented with Honorary Fellowship of RSGS in recognition of her valuable contribution to Scotland’s historic environment and culture, and the promotion of public access to geographical data across the Scottish public sector. Amongst her many areas of expertise and experience, she studied archaeology at Cambridge University, served as Chair of the Institute for Archaeologists, and established the Register of Archaeological Organisations, so we are delighted that she will be joining us for our archaeology-themed Geography Day on Saturday 24th June.
Transforming train travel north of the Forth Mike Robinson, Chief Executive, RSGS
Most of the direct trains between Perth and Edinburgh these days take one hour and 20 minutes. In places it is a beautiful route, but could it not be quicker? Edinburgh is only 43 miles away after all, whereas the Glasgow train takes only an hour and Glasgow is 59 miles away from Perth.
and create significant economic benefits across a very wide area. If there is another way to significantly speed up services using existing routes, then it would prove cheaper still. In November 2016 RSGS convened a meeting hosted jointly by the SCDI and Transform Scotland to present the case for improvements, with representatives from SCDI, Transform Scotland, the Rail Freight Group, Perth City Development Board, VisitScotland, and rail groups from Inverness and from Perth & Kinross Council, amongst others. We found a real enthusiasm to explore this further and hope that a proper scoping study could help flesh out the practicalities and benefits of creating a faster route and assess options for its delivery.
“This is the most vital step in better connecting all of Scotland’s cities.”
If we are trying to encourage sustainable transport and reasonable access beyond the Central Belt, we need to do better. Not only would a faster route increase tourism and jobs, it would start to address the huge discrepancy in house prices north of the Bridges compared to the capital city, and it would be a great step towards improving access to all cities north of the Forth, unlocking public transport access for the whole of the North of Scotland. I first woke up to the state of our plodding rail service on a train journey home from France. The closer I got to home, the more and more slowly we travelled. But what I hadn’t realised until recently was that the train service between Perth and Edinburgh takes longer than it did in Victorian times.
With growing pressure to increase the speed of trains from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London, there is a real danger that train travel north of the capital looks ever more uninviting. But with the immediate potential direct investment of around £1.5 billion into the Scottish economy and such evident longterm knock-on economic merit, this investment in a fast route to Perth is a great opportunity to see a step change in our national rail infrastructure, benefitting the whole of Scotland, and moving from a 19th century railway to a rail service fit for the 21st century.
Transform Scotland, a charity transport network, discovered a timetable from 1895 which showed that trains then made the journey from Perth to Edinburgh six minutes more quickly than trains do today. They are convinced that reinstating a direct rail link from Edinburgh to Perth via Kinross would cut ten miles off the distance and up to 35 minutes off the journey time. Thirty-five minutes! It would literally transform train travel north of the capital. The potential benefit to Perth is much more than faster travel – the station has the capacity to be developed as a passenger and freight rail hub for Scotland, and a hub of economic activity capable of injecting significant money and jobs into the Perthshire economy. But the benefits go much wider still. Half an hour’s reduction in the train journey from Edinburgh to Perth is also half an hour off the train journey from Edinburgh to Inverness, so whilst there are other rail improvements required, this is the most vital step in better connecting all of Scotland’s cities and becoming a primary transport route for the whole of Scotland north of the Central Belt. Does Perth have the vision and appetite to call for large-scale infrastructural investment? And does the Scottish Government have the foresight and the money? A direct line would probably cost less than half of the A9 road-dualling project and do a great deal more for connectivity and sustainability,
From Laurie’s Travelling Map of England and Scotland, with… all the Railways & Stations, 1848, part of the RSGS collections.
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The north-south railway divide Paul Tetlaw, Rail Campaigner, Transform Scotland
Scotland’s rail network in the Central Belt has seen major investments over the last few years, with new lines, electrification and new trains. This has led to improved journey times by rail, and the opportunity for many more people to choose the train over the car and therefore opt for a much safer form of transport. Much the same is true on routes south to England, where passenger numbers on both the East and West Coast Main Lines continue to grow. Looking further ahead, the Scottish Government has been an enthusiastic advocate of high-speed rail from Scotland to the south in order to encourage modal shift to rail and further improve journey times. The picture north of the Central Belt provides a stark contrast. Here the focus of capital expenditure has been on the roads, with £3 billion being committed for dualling the A9 and a further £3 billion for dualling the A96. Many people feel that rail does not offer a viable alternative to the cities in the north, and so opt to drive. It’s not difficult to see why when you consider the journey times by rail which are graphically illustrated in this map. Aberdeen is just 130 miles north from Edinburgh, and yet the journey time is the same as that to York some 205 miles to the south. For Inverness, 175 miles north of Edinburgh, the contrast is even more striking: by opting to travel south instead, one could be in the West Midlands, almost 300 miles south of Edinburgh, in the same time. If the Scottish Government is to achieve its stated ambition of “making rail travel between the cities quicker than by car”, then substantial improvements are urgently needed on the rail routes to the north. As others have said before, they are currently “not fit for purpose” and certainly do not represent an inter-city rail network fit for the 21st century.
“Substantial improvements are urgently needed on the rail routes to the north.”
Rail freight David Spaven, Scottish Representative, Rail Freight Group
“There needs to be a recognition that the Scottish rail network is essentially unfit for purpose north of Perth at present.” That damning – but accurate – verdict came from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce in their response to the Scottish Government’s Rail 2014 consultation. What prompted such strong words on rail? In short, upgrading of the railway network north of the Central Belt has been severely neglected for 40 years, a period during which there has been unprecedented road investment. Perhaps the worst example of this neglect is on the Perth-Inverness corridor, where the A9 road was completely rebuilt in the 1970s and 1980s. In contrast, the last upgrade of the parallel, largely single-track Highland Main Line was in the mid-1970s, when 35 miles of track were redoubled and three new crossing loops were installed in response to the emerging needs of the North Sea oil industry. Ironically, there has been dis-investment in the Highland Main Line since then, with three crossing loops removed, creating even longer single-track sections and reducing capacity and flexibility. Two-thirds of this trunk railway – to Britain’s fastest-growing city – are still single-track, and are largely controlled by the Victorian electro-mechanical signalling system. So what does this mean for rail freight, the safe and sustainable alternative to road haulage? Firstly, there is a stop-start journey from rail hubs in Central Scotland to various terminals in Inverness and beyond. In contrast, the road haulier can contemplate an uninterrupted journey over roads which are entirely dual-lane or dual-carriageway. And the Scottish Government’s raising of the HGV speed limit from 40mph to 50mph on single-carriageway sections of the A9 has enabled road hauliers to cut up to half an hour off transits from west central Scotland to Inverness. That is not a level playing field for fair competition between road and rail. The second infrastructure barrier is the highly-variable length of crossing loops – not a major problem for relatively short passenger trains, but hugely significant for freight. Rail freight can best compete with long trains of multiple loads hauled by a single locomotive. Yet rail’s competitive opportunity is severely hamstrung between Perth and Inverness, with the shortest of the nine crossing loops being just 265 metres in length compared to the longest of 505 metres. How does this impact on key freight flows, particularly in new markets which rail has developed over the last two decades? The
daily Stobart/Tesco train from Mossend to Inverness is limited to 20 containers, yet the Class 66 locomotive hauling the train could handle up to 28 containers (lorryload equivalents) if loop lengths were consistently longer (530+ metres). That 40% increase in productivity would have an enormous impact on rail’s ability to win traffic from road haulage, and in so doing to improve safety and cut emissions along this important corridor.
“With a properly upgraded PerthInverness railway we could increase the number of daily freight trains from two to as many as eight in each direction.”
These gross disparities between rail and road network capacity and capability are a key reason why the Rail Freight Group is supporting the Inter-City Express (ICE) campaign led by Transform Scotland, the sustainable transport alliance, to push for a fit-for-purpose network north of the Central Belt. ICE is arguing for electrification, extension of double track, and more, longer crossing loops on the routes linking Glasgow and Edinburgh with Aberdeen, Inverness and Elgin. The Scottish Government’s intentions for upgrading freight capacity and capability on the Highland Main Line (HML) remain unclear at the time of writing – all we know is that ‘more efficient freight operations’ were promised for the period 2014 to 2019. The HML infrastructure specification has still not been decided, while A9 dualling is pressing ahead at a projected cost of £3 billion to the taxpayer. With a properly upgraded Perth-Inverness railway we could increase the number of daily freight trains from two to as many as eight in each direction, carrying a wide range of commodities such as bulk materials, supermarket supplies, timber and whisky. It would be the equivalent of taking more than 300 lorries off the A9, every day. A government really committed to sustainable economic development – and road safety – would regard this as a golden opportunity.
Rail Freight Group (www.rfg.org.uk) Inter-City Express campaign (transformscotland.org.uk/ what-we-do/campaigns/inter-city-express)
Courtesy of Transport Scotland’s Delivering Your Goods publication.
8 SUMMER 2017
Transforming Scotland’s railway David Boyce, Senior Communications Manager, Network Rail
Scotland has one of the most geographically diverse railways in the GB network, with both domestic and cross-border services fulfilling a variety of travel needs from leisure and short distance to daily commuter services, with rail travel in Scotland more popular than ever before. Scotland’s railway supports some 2,500 passenger services a day, and more than 96 million journeys were made last year. At the same time, Scotland’s railway is in the midst of its biggest transformation since Victorian times, with billions of pounds of ongoing investment: improving the infrastructure, delivering increased capacity, improving passenger facilities, and providing a new fleet of 70 modern electric trains that will be faster, longer and greener. Autumn 2017 will see the start of the introduction of the new fleet, with full introduction by December 2018. To support the new electric fleet, work is ongoing at Millerhill railway yard, Midlothian, to construct a purpose-built electric train depot which is due for completion in August 2017. Electrification is a big part of this investment programme. Since 2014 and on completion in 2019, Network Rail will have electrified 325km of Scotland’s central railway network: between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Cumbernauld and Glasgow, Holytown and Midcalder, and from Grangemouth through Falkirk and Stirling to Alloa and Dunblane. An unprecedented amount of work in such a short period of time. Around 90 structures needed to be rebuilt or significantly altered to support the electrification works, and across the 325km of electrified railway some 6,400 overhead line stanchions were installed to provide the support for the new electric wires. The work in Queen Street tunnel, renewing the track formation, was the largest piece of engineering undertaken on the Edinburgh-Glasgow railway since it was constructed. Engineers and other construction disciplines worked around-the-clock in the challenging conditions of the constrained and humid environment of the tunnel, which involved some 3,000 people accruing over half a million work hours. Work to extend the lengths of platforms has been taking place at stations across Scotland’s central railway network, to support
Queen Street station, Glasgow (artist’s impression).
the introduction of the new longer electric trains. This includes the current platform extension work at Edinburgh Waverley station which will also support the Intercity Express Programme on the East Coast Main Line in preparation for projected future growth in demand. Investment in stations is also part of the programme of improvements. Haymarket station in Edinburgh has been redeveloped, providing a modern, fully accessible railway station which opened to the public as planned on 19th December 2014. Situated between South Gyle and Dalmeny stations, the new Edinburgh Gateway interchange station brings new journey opportunities and better connections for people travelling into and around the capital; in particular, offering rail passengers from Fife and further north the option to transfer directly onto tram for onward travel to Edinburgh Airport. The station will act as an enabler for housing development, business growth and investment in the west of Edinburgh. This was a challenging construction project working in confined geography surrounded by the airport, existing railway, tram lines and the A8, and with a vast amount of utilities in situ, including power supply to the airport, telecom fibre optics for the whole of western Edinburgh, plus a major sewer diversion. The next major station project will see us transform Queen Street station in Glasgow, with platform and track remodelling works planned to facilitate the introduction of ScotRail’s new longer electric trains.
“Scotland’s railway is in the midst of its biggest transformation since Victorian times.”
The drivers for all this investment to improve and modernise Scotland’s railway are quite simple: growth in demand and the wider benefits that rail delivers. The railway makes a big contribution to Scotland’s economy, its communities and future sustainability. This sustained programme of investment positions rail at the centre of transport and infrastructure priorities, and will provide more capacity to support current and future growth.
Electrifying railways Susan Anderson, Head of Infrastructure Support Services, Network Rail
The electrification of railways is synonymous with economic growth and sustainability, and brings green credentials to what has been a very diesel-orientated railway. In Scotland we have been embarking on a significant programme of electrification. Over the last few years we have electrified the branch to Paisley Canal, the line linking Glasgow to Cumbernauld, and the line linking Motherwell to Cumbernauld. These projects have all presented challenges, but we currently have three electrification projects that are dwarfing these in both size and complexity. Our big electrification projects in Scotland are the Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme, with the linked StirlingDunblane-Alloa project, and electrification of the Shotts railway line.
accompanying tourists, so there was no room for error! In delivering electrification schemes the need to comply with changing legislation is always present. Electrification brings great benefits through faster and greener trains, but 25kV of electricity can present hazards to our staff, our customers and even to trespassers. When designing schemes we need to ensure projects have sufficient clearance from both platform and bridge to electric wire / train pantograph. In recent times these clearance requirements have been altered, and we take a comprehensive risk assessment-based approach to determining the necessary interventions; so for instance it is important to take account of cultural changes within society, such as the need to protect passengers standing on platforms with selfie sticks or helium balloons attached with string and inadvertently coming into contact with the overhead wires.
“Electrification projects are the most complex of all our enhancements.”
Electrification projects are the most complex of all our enhancements. To install electric wires requires a vast amount of work: piling to install masts for the wires to be strung from; creating clearance for bridges and structures by either heightening the bridge or lowering the track to accommodate the new overhead line infrastructure; altering platforms and stations to accommodate the new gantries; and, of course, changing from diesel to electric trains means that new depots and stabling facilities are required for the new electric fleet of trains. Usually too, new train fleets bring more capacity for passengers, which means trains are longer and platforms need to be lengthened. Depending on where signals are located trackside, electrification may also require alterations to signals or provision of additional signals, as it is important that the train driver is always able to fully see a signal, and new overhead line equipment could obstruct the driver’s view. Additionally when delivering projects, we are keen to keep disruption to a minimum and keep as many trains running throughout for passengers and freight companies, which means that a lot of this work is done during the night, adding to the challenges for the delivery teams on the ground.
Electrification projects are multi-faceted and incredibly complex to deliver, but as a consequence enable faster, longer, greener trains to operate, which is essential for the long-term future of our railways.
In electrifying the Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street line, there have been significant challenges to overcome. One of the biggest was the electrification of two major tunnels on the route – one at Winchburgh and one at the mouth of Glasgow Queen Street station. Electrifying within a tunnel is especially difficult, as this usually means that tracks have to be dug out and lowered in order to create sufficient clearance for the overhead line wires. As the track is being dug out and lowered to facilitate the installation of the electric wires, this means a significant level of disruption to the train service as the most efficient and quickest way of doing this work is usually in a blockade scenario. For Winchburgh, the route was closed to trains for 44 days in order to complete the works, and when Queen Street station tunnel was electrified, the upper level of the station was closed to trains for 20 weeks. At Carmuirs though, there was a unique clearance issue while electrifying the Edinburgh-Glasgow rail route. The railway went through a tunnel at Carmuirs carrying an aqueduct, part of the Forth and Clyde Canal. In order to deliver the requisite clearance, the canal had to be dammed, the tunnel demolished and a new structure constructed. This work was all delivered within full view of the Falkirk Wheel and
Electrification under an aqueduct at Carmuirs, during and after.
10 SUMMER 2017
How rail can boost Glasgow’s regeneration Dr John McCormick, Chair, Scottish Association for Public Transport
Many cities throughout Europe have transformed their rail services to improve accessibility whilst also reducing urban road congestion and pollution. Train services have been upgraded to metro frequency, with routes in some cases extended underground to improve city centre penetration. As an alternative to the expense of tunnelling, some German cities have pioneered light rail TramTrains, hybrids of electric trains and trams, to operate on the railway network and also via street tramways into the heart of city centres and suburbs.
research suggests that the TramTrain technology pioneered in Germany, and now also planned for Sheffield, would offer an affordable solution involving laying a short section of track on-street from the City Union Line at Bridgegate via St Enoch to Central station. Based on current costs per kilometre for other UK systems, this link, at less than one kilometre, should cost less than £100 million, substantially lower than the Rail Delivery Group’s options for expanding Glasgow Central.
In the UK, Manchester’s Metrolink system carries over 34 million passengers annually. Metrolink light rail vehicles run every 12 minutes on dedicated railway routes then continue through the city centre streets on tramlines. In London the Docklands Light Railway, which is fully automated with driverless trains, carries 117 million passengers annually (more than the complete ScotRail network) and was a crucial factor enabling development of the Docklands financial district. Decisions on rail transport in these two successful city regions have been devolved to Transport for Greater Manchester and Transport for London respectively.
Glasgow City Council’s District Regeneration Framework seeks to create an urban structure that can fully realise Glasgow’s economic, cultural and social potential. ClydeMetro would fit well with these objectives, creating better links between jobs and homes across the Glasgow area. New rail stops could be provided at Glasgow Cross, Gorbals, Stockwell Street and St Enoch (interchange with the Subway), improving city centre accessibility and acting as a catalyst for economic development. ClydeMetro would also link east and north-east of the city via Bellgrove to Glasgow Central for connections to south and west of the city including, in future, Glasgow Airport and HS2.
“Rail infrastructure capacity in Glasgow will need to be expanded if growing demand for train travel is to be accommodated.”
Birmingham, Nottingham and Sheffield also have light rail networks which are now being expanded. Birmingham’s Midland Metro is being extended to a major commercial development around the planned Curzon Street HS2 railway station. In Scotland, rail journeys rose from 69 million in 2005-06 to 93 million in 2015-16. Glasgow has the second-largest rail network in the UK, running at capacity at peak times on most routes into the city. Rail infrastructure capacity in Glasgow will need to be expanded if growing demand for train travel is to be accommodated. (Glasgow bus speeds are falling by 15% per decade due to worsening road congestion, and Hope Street is one of the most polluted streets in the UK.) The Rail Delivery Group has identified a number of infrastructure upgrades to support more and longer trains. Extra platforms are proposed for Glasgow Central station, which is the hub for most Glasgow commuter rail routes from south of the Clyde, and is also the destination for West Coast Anglo-Scottish routes including the future HS2. An alternative strategy based on continental experience would be to introduce high-frequency cross-city metro services for Greater Glasgow. Extending the Glasgow Subway to the east and north of the city is one possibility, though this would not be cheap. Another metro possibility would be to upgrade the largely unused City Union Line, which connected to the now demolished St Enoch railway terminus, to support new crosscity ‘ClydeMetro’ services replacing some short-distance ScotRail suburban routes. The key to unlocking the full potential of the City Union Line would be to construct a link from it to Glasgow Central station where connection could be made with other rail services. Our
The ScotRail franchise is the largest Scottish Government contract, costing £7 billion over ten years to 2025. A potentially profitable ClydeMetro system, replacing some local Glasgow suburban train services and fully integrated with the Subway and local buses, could be developed by a municipal ‘Transport for Glasgow’ organisation, reducing the cost to the Government of future ScotRail franchises.
Time to change tracks James Bream, Research and Policy Director, Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce
Rose-tinted glasses As I write this I am on the 8.42am train to Glasgow from Aberdeen, travelling 146 miles in around 2 hours 33 minutes at an average speed of 57mph. The steward, Deiter, has passed me a cup of coffee and slice of chocolate pastry to enjoy as I watch the sun sparkling off the North Sea outside the window. I will arrive in plenty of time for my meeting and will even get some work done on the way. The gentle rocking is relaxing and reminds me of my youth when I would ride the train on the single track from nearby Keith into the city. The good news is that the Wi-Fi is working and as we approach Stonehaven, some 15 miles from Aberdeen, I have 4G to make some calls. It feels like travelling doesn’t get much better than this. Red-tinted glasses Five days ago I was on the 3.44pm train from Jinan West to Beijing South, travelling 252 miles in 1 hour 39 minutes at an average of 152mph. On this journey I was given water and a bag of goodies including beef jerky, sweets and cake. Before embarking, I had been struck by the remarkable sight of the long straight lines of rail infrastructure and the cleanliness of the station. The sun was hot outside but the carriage was air-conditioned cool and there was ample room for my lanky legs in the wide, comfortable seating. It was superb watching the world go by, and even though it wasn’t a ‘super-fast’ train, it certainly shifted. Glasses off Back in the present we’re arriving at Stonehaven and stuck at signals, backed up in a queue of trains on the line. As the minutes slowly tick by, I am reminded of the time I was two trains back during the last St Andrews Golf Open, trapped on the single track at Montrose with a three-hour delay – definitely less nostalgia and more frustration. None of this is the fault of the train driver or other staff; they are doing their best to keep us informed and simply have to work within the confines of a lack of infrastructure, progress and resilience. A couple of years ago my team undertook research which found that business people in the north-east of Scotland wanted journey times reduced by 45 minutes from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. In the context of the very different Bullet train at Beijing South station.
journey times I experienced last week, that is still pedestrian but a reduction of around 30% from current levels. What we actually have, however, is a commitment to reduce journey times by 20 minutes, an increase to an average of 66mph, by an undefined date in the future. It is clear that we are in a time of limited resources. Direct comparison with China is not entirely fair, as they have more space to build and express trains which stop less, whereas we are ‘retro-fitting’ improvements. But it is equally clear that our levels of ambition are limited. Our slow delivery hampers us and we are unlikely to compete with international comparators during my lifetime. In that respect perhaps we need to be honest about what is possible, but equally take a shot of adrenaline and be more ambitious. For Scotland to function properly, particularly our peripheral regions, we need better and faster connectivity. We are a small country and need to encourage regional competitiveness and ensure visitors (business and tourists) consider us a world-class destination. I am not sure a dose of nostalgia on our rail network is the way to do that.
“For Scotland to function properly, particularly our peripheral regions, we need better and faster connectivity.”
Until we get that injection of boldness I will sit back, keep working and enjoy the chuggety-chug of the diesel train, rolling hills and ‘traditional’ railway in Scotland.
12 SUMMER 2017
Bolder vision brings results Nicholas Bethune, Secretary, Campaign for Borders Rail
Campaign for Borders Rail is a pressure group which played a key role in securing around £350 million of investment to reopen the 30 miles of railway linking Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders.
“There can be strong latent demand for rail services in areas with dispersed rural populations.”
The 98-mile original railway was popularly known as the Waverley Route. Opened throughout in 1862, it ran from Edinburgh to Carlisle through Galashiels and Hawick. Condemned by the 1963 Beeching Report, when closure was confirmed in 1968 it prompted anger – and a last-ditch campaign for a reprieve – but to no avail. The last train ran on 5th January 1969 amidst demonstrations at Galashiels, Hawick and Newcastleton. The line was dismantled between 1969 and 1972 and the trackbed sold off.
Moves to reinstate the section between the central Borders and Edinburgh began in the 1990s under a private initiative. Further petitioning by campaigners and promotion by local authorities then led to a parliamentary proposal for a new railway from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, near Galashiels. Later known as the ‘Borders Railway’, construction contracts were signed in 2012 and the new line opened in 2015. The Borders Railway experience has provided three important lessons for proposed rail reopening initiatives elsewhere. Firstly, rail reopenings are essentially political decisions. Of course, it helps if a strong business case can be proven, but other factors can be equally important. In the Borders’ case, politicians were convinced by the argument that an entire region was being unfairly disadvantaged without a rail link. The need for fairness, linked to an agenda to stimulate regional growth, won out over an apparently weak business case. Secondly, flawed forecasting methodology is resulting in viable projects being rejected or de-scoped because they appear to have poor benefit-to-cost ratios. In the case of the Borders Railway, the usage forecasts for Tweedbank, Galashiels and Stow stations were ludicrously pessimistic – for example, actual first-year usage at Tweedbank was 337,894 single journeys compared to the 43,242 forecast. Viability doubts at the forecasting stage led to cutbacks in infrastructure capacity, which at times has undermined the punctuality and reliability of the new service. Thirdly, the popularity of the Borders Railway, despite these problems, demonstrates that there can be strong latent demand for rail services in areas with dispersed rural populations. It has a ‘turn up and go’
half-hourly service 18 hours a day, six days a week, and is hourly on Sundays. This clearly shows the potential benefits of enhancing existing rural lines, few of which, if any, enjoy this level of service. Campaigners have always aspired to see the line continue to Hawick and, ideally, all the way back to Carlisle. Hawick, a town of over 14,000, remains isolated and in decline, and the region as a whole needs better southern links to develop its economic potential.
Advocates of the railway have been emboldened by the popularity of the new line, with Scottish Borders Council at the forefront of the official bodies in support of extension. In 2015 a committee of MPs at Westminster recommended that the UK and Scottish governments work together to develop the project as a strategic link. More recently, Transport Scotland announced a multi-modal transport study for the Borders that would include scoping work for a railway extension feasibility study. Sufficient political capital has been invested in the idea to make it seem quite likely that the railway could eventually reach Hawick, but the prospects for getting to Carlisle are less certain. Much depends on the sophistication of the feasibility studies and the ability to assemble a cross-border consensus between governments, ministries and local councils. The Borders was lucky to get its railway back at all because of a poor business case, but the actual usage and economic boost to the region has been so strong that viability concerns have been quickly forgotten. This is a challenge to politicians and transport planners to be more confident and ambitious for railway development. How many more communities could be successfully served by rail if transport assessment methodology was more accurate?
Stow Station on the opening day, 6th September 2015. © Robert Drysdale
A revitalisation shot in the arm for a rural economy Councillor David Parker, Convener, Scottish Borders Council
In 1998, when the Viasystems factories in Selkirk and Galashiels in the Scottish Borders closed with the loss of 1,200 jobs, a seismic shock wave went through the local community. Electronics had been the replacement for an ailing textile industry; now it too was in decline. The response from government saw a variety of measures implemented to try and diversify the Borders economy, support inward investment and, above all else, improve the transportation infrastructure of the region to connect it to the rest of Scotland. The campaign to reinstate the former Waverley Line, which used to run from Edinburgh to Carlisle, grew fresh impetus. In the years ahead, a positive feasibility study was published, an Act of Parliament was developed and approved allowing construction of the new railway and, most importantly, a business case for the new line was agreed.
© David Langworth
From the closure of Viasystems in 1998, it took 17 years to overcome all the hurdles to make a railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders a reality.
The region had been without a railway for 46 years. The £355 million infrastructure project had a great many critics, but the project was delivered by the hard work of campaigners and politicians from across the political spectrum. When the new Borders Railway opened, on 6th September 2015, it truly was a project delivered by the power of people.
already that expected head count is on the rise. As well as running the Council’s IT services, the company were keen to open their second UK service centre in the Scottish Borders, with the Borders Railway a major factor in their decision on location. Working with the Scottish Government, the area around Tweedbank where the railway terminates is being developed into a new business park, with accommodation for IT and office-based companies along with light industry. House prices in the central Borders have risen as much as 15% in some areas. The railway has breathed new life into hospitality businesses in the Galashiels and Melrose area, with © VisitScotland existing businesses seeing an upturn in visitors and profit, and with new businesses, such as Grapevine in Galashiels and Seasons in Gattonside, opening and flourishing on the back of the railway. Borders College, a further education provider, has seen applications to its Galashiels campus increase by 74% from students in Midlothian and East Lothian. Local brewing firms like Tempest are seeing increased trade and the ability to employ staff outwith the region greatly enhanced. Many Borders companies, such as Spark Energy, Qube GB and Hinduja Global Solutions, are finding it easier to attract the talent they need to make their businesses flourish.
“Its promise of economic regeneration is being felt throughout the region.”
Instantly, the line proved to be an incredible success. Passenger numbers at Galashiels were 500% up on what was anticipated, and numbers at Tweedbank 700% ahead of projections. The line carried 1.3 million passengers in its first year instead of the 620,000 expected. A steady flow of new visitors entered the Scottish Borders, many coming for the first time. All of a sudden, a project that previously had many critics was one that almost everyone in the Borders now embraced. It is only 18 months since the new Borders Railway became a reality, and already its promise of economic regeneration is being felt throughout the region. In March 2016, Scottish Borders Council announced an IT partnership with CGI, the world’s fifth-largest IT company. That partnership will see CGI create a new service centre, based in the Scottish Borders, with 250 new jobs and
Visitor attraction numbers are up significantly, with Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott, seeing a 10% increase, and events such as the Borders Book Festival and the Melrose Sevens enjoying more visitors than ever before. In January 2017, the Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor (STEAM) figures for the first six months of 2016, compared with the first six months of 2015 for the Scottish Borders, revealed: • the number of visitor-days in hotels and bed and breakfasts has risen by 27%; • a 20% rise in visitor spend on food and drink; • visitor spend on accommodation is up 17%; • a 16% rise in overall visitor spend; • the number of days visitors stayed in the Borders has increased by almost 11%; • an 8% increase in employment related to tourism. The significant growth was put down to the Borders Railway, with the Borders figures being the fastest growing in Scotland. It is still early days, and ultimately the success of the railway will be judged over the medium term, but one could not have hoped for a more encouraging start.
14 SUMMER 2017
Rail drives tourism in Scotland Hamish Hutchinson, Corporate Press Officer, VisitScotland
It is an icon of the engineering world and played a cameo role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. In 2015, its iconic status as an international landmark was cemented when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site – sitting alongside the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. Now Scotland’s Forth Bridge is seeking to ‘elevate the status’ of many of its admirers, with proposals for a ‘bridge climb’ experience, similar to the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. The ambitious plans by its owners, Network Rail, come as Scotland celebrates the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and show the appetite that visitors have for exclusive and innovative experiences in Scotland. The tourism industry needs to embrace new technology, innovation and new ways of working if it wants to compete successfully in a competitive global market, and this innovative approach to the Forth Bridge is just one of the many ways rail businesses and infrastructure are driving tourism in the country. Opened in 1901, the cinematic splendour of Glenfinnan Viaduct is these days best known as the bridge on which the fictional Hogwarts Express takes characters from the Harry Potter films to the magical school of Hogwarts. The Jacobite Steam Train, run by West Coast Railways, which crosses the viaduct in real life, is a popular journey, not least amongst ‘set-jetters’ (visitors to film locations) wishing to re-tread the footsteps of their favourite fictional characters. With 2017 marking the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first book in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and research showing that 40% of visitors to the UK were inspired to come by images on the big and small screen, it could prove a popular year for the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Elsewhere, the London-to-Inverness Caledonian Sleeper, described by travel guide experts Lonely Planet as “an
overnight teleport from hubbub to Highlands”, is currently undergoing a £100 million revamp with 75 new state-of-theart carriages due to be rolled out in 2018. The most notable effect of rail on tourism in recent years has been the opening of the Borders Railway (www. bordersrailway.co.uk), returning passenger rail services from Edinburgh to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders for the first time in 46 years. Scotland’s newest railway – a £294 million project by the Scottish Government and part of the national Great Scenic Railway network – opened on 6th September 2015 and is a fundamental part of delivering the industry’s Tourism Scotland 2020 strategy and promoting growth in Scotland’s visitor economy to 2020.
With 30 miles of railway and seven stations running through the Scottish Borders, Midlothian and Edinburgh, it is an exciting new tourism opportunity for the local economy. The importance of this new rail link was reflected in the £367,000 investment by national tourism body VisitScotland in a unique three-year international marketing campaign to put the railway ‘on the map’. Recent data has revealed that tourism in the Borders and Midlothian has received a major boost since its introduction, with statistics from the Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor showing a 27% rise in visitor-days in hotels and bed and breakfasts in the Borders, and a 12.3% rise in Midlothian. Both regions also saw a boost to the overall visitor spend. The Borders Railway saw an 8% rise in tourism employment in the Borders. Local tourist attractions too are starting to see the benefits of the new line, with Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott’s home, recording a 12% increase in visitor numbers in 2016. Elsewhere, research by the Moffat Centre has shown that overall visits to Midlothian and Borders tourist attractions increased by 4% and 6.9% over the first seven months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015. Tourism is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy, supporting communities and creating jobs throughout the year.
“Rail businesses and infrastructure are driving tourism in the country.” Images from left clockwise: Glenfinnan Viaduct, Abbotsford House, Borders Railway, Forth Bridge, Caledonian Sleeper. All images © VisitScotland
16 SUMMER 2017
Trump’s first 100 days: the curious case for climate optimism Professor Elizabeth Bomberg, Professor of Politics, University of Edinburgh A perusal of President Donald Trump’s early climate and environmental initiatives makes for sobering reading. Within his first 100 days he appointed a series of climate sceptics and oilmen to his Cabinet and closest advisory circle. He vowed to “end the war on coal” by attempting to dismantle Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which is designed to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. He lifted a moratorium on coal leasing, and issued permits for controversial oil pipelines. Meanwhile, his proposed budget included huge cuts in funding for scientific agencies and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal institution charged with upholding and implementing environmental legislation. This list is partial. What readers might not realise, however, is that regardless of what Trump would like to implement, his policies, budget cuts and actions will confront constitutional, institutional and societal barriers. Some of Trump’s proposals will get through, but a lot will not. Four checks and countervailing trends are particularly important.
dismissive view of research and data. Beyond the US, Trump’s threat to ‘cancel’ the Paris Climate Agreement will also be blocked. He cannot undo a multilateral agreement, though he can withdraw the US from it. Doing so would be foolhardy (even according to some in his Cabinet) but would in any case take a minimum of four years (longer than his term) due to provisions written into the Paris Agreement. Moreover, as Mike Robinson highlighted in the winter 2016-17 edition of The Geographer, the Paris Agreement enjoys wide support from a huge range of countries, and several other parties to the Agreement have promised to fill the void left by US inaction. These parties include the European Union for sure (“We are ready to lead the fight,” said a spokesman), but also China which has huge incentives to take on the leadership role abandoned by the US. China is highly vulnerable to climate change and suffers dangerously high levels of urban pollution. Moreover, its economy benefits enormously from the global development of renewables. Less clear is how other major emitters such as India will react, especially if the US reduces its contribution to the green climate fund promised to developing countries. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that, for most countries, the environmental, economic and diplomatic incentives for moving forward on Paris far outweigh the temptation to follow a laggard.
“[Trump’s] policies, budget cuts and actions will confront constitutional, institutional and societal barriers.”
The first check is constitutional. Both Congress and, even more so, the judicial branch will pose formidable checks on Trump’s power. Any proposed dismantling of the CPP, for instance, will be subject to lengthy congressional but also judicial review, triggered by suits filed by a range of states, environmental, labour and health NGOs. Regardless of whether NGOs are successful in their legal challenge, the delay could last years, longer than the presidential term itself. The second barrier is economic. Trump cannot stop the global and national market forces which have sent coal use in a downward spiral. Hundreds of US coal power plants have closed, and the number of jobs in the coal sector has plummeted. Meanwhile, renewables are a tremendous growth industry in the US, especially in the Midwest. Costs for wind and solar have fallen markedly and employment has shot up. In the electricity sector, according to the US Department of Energy, employment in solar alone now outstrips employment in oil and gas. We can also expect lots of opposition below the federal level. Much of the relevant statutory power (and creativity) in climate and environment policy is found here. California has led other states vowing to defy Trump’s harshest moves and committing to sharply reduce state emissions, regardless of federal inaction. Just as important is pushback from a growing number of Republican states like Iowa, Kansas, and Ohio who have benefitted enormously from a renewables revolution which has brought to their states jobs, investment, and reduced energy costs. These Republican leaders have become unexpected champions of low-carbon economies and low-carbon policies. Cities will also continue their core efforts to reduce carbon as part of their efforts to reduce costs, and protect coasts, infrastructures and public safety. More general citizen mobilization has also grown and diversified. In addition to increased membership of environmental NGOs, early 2017 featured a record-breaking number of protests from unlikely quarters including religious communities, health groups and – in a series of very well-organised protest marches – scientists concerned by the Administration’s
In the February 2017 edition of the Young Geographer magazine, The Future We Want, several contributors identified the changes necessary to address climate change in Scotland and globally. These include societal mobilization, an economic shift to low-carbon energy, sub-state action, and behavioural and cultural shifts. While not receiving much attention in the UK press, these forces are all thriving in the US. Combined with the constitutional checks outlined above, it is not unreasonable to think these countervailing forces will shape – and in many cases curtail – the Trump Administration’s attempt to scupper progress on climate policy and action. The case for climate optimism continues, with or without Trump. FURTHER READING
Bomberg E (2017) Environmental Politics in the Trump Era: An Early Assessment (Environmental Politics, 25:6, forthcoming).
Tackling climate change Dr Andy Kerr, Executive Director, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation; Mike Robinson, Chief Executive, RSGS
This year, 2017, is a big one for shaping our future in Scotland. Despite all the wider political machinations and global uncertainties, there is a great deal of ambition and activity on the domestic front. There have already been consultations by the Scottish Government on energy, on transport infrastructure, and on the Climate Change Delivery Plan, and positive conversations about affordable warm homes with new forms of heating, and the economic opportunities of being at the forefront of the (local) energy revolution taking place around the world. At the same time, there is an increasingly joined-up approach to building community and city resilience to natural hazards. All play a part in delivering economic and social benefits to our communities from cutting our dependence on fossil fuels. Scotland has already proved its ambition in this area. In 2009 the Scottish Parliament unanimously agreed the most stringent climate legislation in the world, with a headline target of achieving a 42% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (based on 1990 levels) by 2020, and an 80% reduction by 2050. This is what the science at the time indicated was needed by western nations to avoid a 2°C rise in global temperature. The UK Climate Change Committee (UKCCC) advised at the time that 42% was unlikely to be easily achieved, and it was not clear how this target could be met. In 2014 however, Scotland reported a reduction of 45.8% on 1990 levels. There are several mitigating factors which have helped, such as the export of some heavy industry, and changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme and the 1990 baseline, but we set challenging targets, uncertain they could be met, and achieved them in half the time we thought possible.
UKCCC advice is that it would require an 89-97% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, but they are not confident this is achievable.
“It would require an 89-97% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.”
Perhaps the answer really rests on when this scale of cut is possible in ways which deliver wider net social and economic benefits – through clean air, warm affordable homes, vibrant businesses, connected communities – rather than whether it is possible by 2050. There is clearly still plenty of work to do. Some sectors have achieved a great deal to help bring down emissions whilst thriving economically. Others, such as transport and agriculture, have achieved very little, but are on the cusp of major transformation through social and/or technological changes. Sectoral targets (or guidance) might need to be part of the solution. The big questions, though, are going to be about how to balance the need to cut emissions, with the desire to show moral leadership and the need to deliver social and economic wellbeing to cities and communities. Should the targets be stretching or achievable? How do we get every sector to engage? And if successful, how do we help encourage the rest of the world to THe yOu NG GeO Gra PHe r The follow suit?
THE FUTURE WE WANT
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“The window of opportu nity to stabilize the climate is quickly closing in on us.”
Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC
• Food Waste, Cities and Transport • Buildings, Business and Big Opportunities
ClimaTe After the Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015, in Wears a which the world’s nations identified a desire to avoid a 1.5°C Very increase in global temperature (as opposed to the previous human 2°C target), the Scottish FaCe Government stated their intention to increase their ambition to match this increased urgency. This year they will consult as to what those revised estimates should be. At an event this April, the UKCCC gave guidance to the government based on their assessment of what was achievable. They suggested that a challenging 2050 target lay with emissions reductions of between 79% and 83%, so no real increase on the current level. But the Scottish Government have stated a commitment to be more ambitious. And many NGOs and scientists think Scotland should aim for a 100% net emissions reduction by 2050. To match the Paris proposal Laurent Fabius, President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), who received the RSGS Shackleton Medal at an event of avoiding a 1.5°C increase, at Edinburgh Castle in September 2016. February 2017
Mag N.indd 1
• Laurent Fabius: Shackleton Medallis t • Views from Jamaica , Bolivia and Hong Kong • Lord Krebs, Professor Skea and Mark Carney • Reader Offer: Scotland: Mapping the Islands
plus news, books, and more…
18 SUMMER 2017
Working on the train Dr Juliet Jain, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England
History shows that the railway transformed society in many ways. Victorian rail travel for the masses demanded new ways of managing the journey experience. In one study (Schivelbusch, 1986) it was explained how reading became a pastime for rail passengers as the entrepreneurial W H Smith capitalized on the need to fill travel time by selling paperbacks on stations. Reading, according to Schivelbusch, not only enabled people to pass the journey time, but also enabled passengers to create a sense of privacy in a public space. You could disappear into a book or hide behind a newspaper, if you weren’t enjoying the passing scenery or chatting with other passengers.
uninterrupted time, or prepare for the meeting or event ahead (Jain and Lyons, 2008). The surveys indicated that business travellers are most likely to plan what they are going to do on the train before they travel, and this group is more likely to view their travel time as productive. Continuous connectivity is now part of this expectation, but business travellers are frustrated particularly by discontinuous mobile phone signals; it is business travellers therefore who indicate they are willing to pay for the best level of mobile and internet connectivity on the train (Department for Transport, 2016).
“Even transport economists recognise that people work on the train.”
The railway carriage also has developed as a space of work. Business travellers and commuters always could attend to paperwork while they travelled, but mobile technology has expanded activity options. By the 1990s ‘quiet carriages’ countered the growth of phone calls made on trains, and by the mid-2000s some train routes offered passengers WiFi. In 2017 the digitally enhanced passenger has an array of devices for connecting to the wider world, often independent of the train’s facilities. However, the UK government has proposed that rail operators must provide passengers with free WiFi to enhance their travel time opportunities, whilst at the same time is directing digital policy towards transport routes offering a continuous connectivity through 5G.
Investment into the High Speed 2 rail connection created a debate about the value of travel time savings versus productive travel time as a way of justifying investment, but policy seems to be caught between economics of time savings on one hand, while on the other heavily investing in the customer experience and enhancing passengers’ opportunities for productivity. Few are considering the unintended consequences. Maybe one day travel time might be valued as digital downtime for improved health and wellbeing. So sit back, enjoy the view and read a book!
While passengers can choose to do a range of activities on the move, travel time as activity time still sits uncomfortably in the economic discourse of travel time savings. Very simplistically, transport economics is based on the premise that productivity occurs at fixed locations (eg, the office). Travel time does not have economic value as it is unproductive time; therefore, time savings resulting from travelling faster give economic benefit. The research Travel Time Use in the Information Age (funded by the EPSRC, 2004-07) challenged this idea, and argued that mobile technology gave greater scope for working on the move, increasing the economic value of travel time. Rail passengers were asked about their travel time use through the National Rail Passenger Survey in 2004 as part of this research, and subsequently in 2010 and 2016 (Lyons et al, 2016). These surveys confirmed that technology offers new ways of using travel time, although many passengers still spend time looking out of the window or reading a book. Journey purpose and journey duration affect what people do; for example, business travellers are the most likely to be working or making/taking work phone calls or sending/receiving emails. Fewer passengers undertake one activity for the duration of the journey, and more passengers incorporate a number of different activities, often mixing personal activities with work or vice versa. Even transport economists recognise that people work on the train, but what has not been conclusively tested is the equivalence of measurable economic output from working on the train to working in the office, and attributing that a specific economic value. Qualitative research indicated that business travellers often allocate specific activities to the train journey. For example, they may take work (formerly paperwork) that requires
Percentage of passengers undertaking activities some of the time.
Jain J, Lyons G (2008) The gift of travel time (Journal of Transport Geography, 16:2) Lyons G, Jain J, Weir I (2016) Changing times – a decade of empirical insight into the experience of rail passengers in Great Britain (Journal of Transport Geography, 57) Schivelbusch W (1986) The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century (University of California Press, Berkeley) Department for Transport (2016) Mobile Connectivity (www. gov.uk/government/publications/quantifying-the-value-ofinternet-access)
Competitive connectivity Scottish Council for Development and Industry
London is a place in which key customers, partners and investors for Scottish businesses are based – it is also a global economic hub, a place to meet international business leaders and attract international investment into Scotland, and a platform from which they can internationalise. So, competitive and affordable connectivity with London is an economic priority for Scotland.
the next ten years are currently being assessed by Network Rail and the UK and Scottish governments. High Speed Rail Scotland believes that whether the east or west coast is selected by the governments as the principal route for the three-hour or less journey time target, there will also be a need for substantial investment in infrastructure upgrades on the other coast.
The last few decades have seen major fluctuations in the cross-border market. Air became dominant with the growth of low-cost airlines, but following upgrades to infrastructure and services rail has won some of this back. Rail’s share of the market between Glasgow and London has increased from 10% to one quarter (at the same time, its share of the market between Manchester and London has grown from a half to 90%). On the east coast, rail’s share of the market between Edinburgh and London is one third. Further growth in passenger numbers is predicted on both routes.
Furthermore, improving connectivity within Scotland, especially to the north, can extend the benefits. Scotland’s forthcoming Strategic Transport Projects Review offers the opportunity to consider the options to significantly increase passenger and freight capacity, and reduce journey times and carbon emissions, creating intercity services which are competitive with the dualled roads.
“Competitive and affordable connectivity with London is an economic priority for Scotland.”
From SCDI’s perspective, we would like fast, frequent and affordable rail and air connectivity. Air will always be more competitive for some journeys, especially for people connecting through a London hub to travel internationally or to come to Scotland to do business or visit. However, as long-distance rail journeys generate less than half of the emissions per passenger of the equivalent car journey and less than a third of the equivalent air journey, modal shift to rail where it is a competitive option should clearly be encouraged to support UK climate targets. As rail’s share of the cross-border markets shows, there is considerable potential to accommodate modal shift from air and road to rail. Better connectivity between Scotland and the so-called Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine is regarded as increasingly important for the Scottish economy and will help to rebalance the UK economy. Last year the Scottish Government and Transport for the North, supported by the Scottish Cities Alliance, signed a Memorandum of Understanding setting out their joint ambition to enhance transport connectivity within and between the north of England and Scotland.
But there is a need for action to improve connectivity before the extension of HS2 – Scotland’s competitiveness relative to the Midlands and the north of England will suffer if there is none. There is also a need to maintain and build the rail market to make the case for and make a success of HS2. Renewal of the West Coast franchise presents the opportunity for operators to offer a service that can compete even more effectively, encouraging more people to travel domestically by rail. The construction of HS2 will bring both challenges and opportunities for the operation of the next franchise, with its end expected to coincide with the opening of Phase 1 between London and Birmingham. The next operator will need robust contingency plans for the development of HS2 and how this could affect the service. The competitiveness of rail to other modes of transport is certainly influenced by ticket fares and booking options. On journeys between Scotland and London, air travel is the biggest competitor to rail. Advance booking offers customers the best fares, but rail customers can only book ahead by three months compared to the six months pre-booking window offered by some airlines. We know from our own research that when journey times, connectivity and affordability are comparable, rail is often seen as an attractive option. A key competitive advantage is that it offers more productive travel time. However, it is crucial to improve the current digital connectivity which is available on the route to improve the productivity of business travellers even more.
SCDI strongly supports the development of HS2 and currently chairs High Speed Rail Scotland, the partnership group which is working with Transport Scotland to make the case for upgraded and high speed rail links from the north of HS2 to Scotland, advise on the options, and maximise the opportunities for economic development. We promote the aim of a three-hour or less journey time between Glasgow/Edinburgh and London. The options for improvements over
If rail is to prosper, and our economies and cities prosper with it, we will need a joined-up plan for investment in cross-border and Scottish intercity connectivity – putting us on a fast track towards HS2. St Pancras station, London. © Mike Robinson
20 SUMMER 2017
Railways and regeneration: Levenmouth Dr Allen Armstrong, Secretary, LMRC – LevenMouth Rail Campaign
Scotland’s current rail network is essentially the outcome of historical accident rather than planned strategic connectivity. It lacks both efficiency and fairness as a result of a strange combination of the sprawling ambition of Victorian initiators, partly rationalised following the 1963 Beeching Report and subsequent reattachments. With rail demand surging, this 19th-century technology requires significant realignment to cope with Scotland’s 21st-century challenges. Network Rail’s current routemap includes a five-mile branch line in Fife from Thornton to the coast at Leven. Still fully intact under Network Rail ownership, the line has been mothballed since freight traffic serving Methil Power Station closed in 2001. Other branch lines serving much smaller populations, for example North Berwick, continued due to active political lobbying. Levenmouth is the 25th-largest settlement in Scotland, a conurbation comprising the conjoined central towns of Leven, Methil and Buckhaven, alongside a cluster of neighbouring villages. Levenmouth has a population of 38,000 – already by far the largest urban area in Scotland with no rail services – in addition to a further 9,500 in the southern East Neuk catchment for whom Leven or Cameron Bridge stations would serve as railheads. As a former mining area with distinctive individual local communities and identities, the unified term ‘Levenmouth’ has recently emerged. The failure to project a common urban identity is one factor why the area lacks certain services normally found in a settlement this size. The ‘rainshadow’ effect created by the distortion of central place theory in Fife may be another, with similar-sized large settlements located in relatively close proximity in Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline and Glenrothes new town.
with one hour by train). The nearest rail interchanges within ten miles, Markinch and Kirkcaldy, are less used due to the inconvenience of journey breaks and modal shift. Only 3% of Levenmouth’s population works in Edinburgh compared with 20% of Dunbar’s, at similar distance but with rail connections. Recognising this connectivity barrier, Levenmouth has undergone three strategic transport studies since 2006, all recommending rail reinstatement. The most recent STAG (Sustainable Transport Appraisal Guidance 2016) again demonstrated a positive ‘business case’, offering a far superior return on public investment than, for example, the recent Borders line. In the context of Scottish rail expansion, Levenmouth residents and experts remain unclear why the reopening of an existing line is still delayed, at a modest £42 million cost and with existing Fife Circle services currently terminating at Thornton easily extended. A rejection in 2008 was on the grounds of ‘offering only local rather than national benefit’, a dubious concept in itself and no longer valid given major recent investment combined with deteriorating relative deprivation. Levenmouth lies at the northernmost edge of Edinburgh’s City Region, extending from mid-Fife to the English border, encompassing six local authorities. With the economy of Edinburgh and hinterland risking overheating, a clear opportunity exists to strengthen Levenmouth’s connectivity, bringing the healthy Edinburgh jobs market within a commuting range of Levenmouth, with halfhourly train services. Average house prices in Edinburgh are around three times those in Levenmouth, offering scope to accommodate growing housing pressures.
“Much more than a mere transport project, the reinstatement of rail services… would bring transformational benefits.”
Levenmouth’s history is one of successive boom and bust. Methil was once Scotland’s main coal port, exporting three million tons annually post-WWI, but the closure of the last coal mines by the early 1970s sent the area into steep decline and rail exclusion. The area remains a significant industrial centre. Diageo concentrated its main Scottish operations in Levenmouth from 2012, while there has been substantial investment to create a renewable energy industry in Fife Energy and Low Carbon Investment Parks. The growing popularity of the Fife Coastal Path, along with the new Pilgrim Way and the attraction of the East Neuk, suggests major growth potential in the new leisure economy.
Much more than a mere transport project, the reinstatement of rail services to poorly-connected Levenmouth would bring transformational benefits to a significant but currently struggling community, supporting substantial recent private and public sector investment in the area, and also enabling it to contribute to sustaining the growth of the Edinburgh City Region. The simple measure of reopening the existing line would fill one of the most obvious current gaps in the current accidental Scottish network.
Alongside positive developments, however, Levenmouth has suffered increasing relative deprivation similar to other postindustrial communities. Around half of the 51 datazones in Levenmouth fall within the highest-ranked 20% of Scottish communities in terms of multiple deprivation (SIMD 2016), reflected in low incomes, higher unemployment, lower educational attainment, and poorer health status compared with Fife and Scottish averages. For a large community within a one-hour drive of Edinburgh, Levenmouth residents and businesses regularly report a sense of isolation. While bus services are reasonable, journey times for travel to cities for work, study and leisure are effectively double that of the train (two hours compared
Thornton North Junction, 2012. © Bill Robertson
Reconnecting Ellon to the rail network Martin Ford, Councillor for East Garioch, Aberdeenshire Council
The railway line between Dyce, Ellon and Mintlaw opened in July 1861 as a branch off the Aberdeen to Keith main line. The new line was extended to Peterhead, opening in July 1862, and then from Maud to Fraserburgh, opening in April 1865. All these sections of line were closed in the 1970s and the track bed is now a footpath/cycle route, the Formartine & Buchan Way. A branch line from Ellon to Boddam opened in 1897 but closed in 1945, and parts of this route have since been incorporated into road realignments or built over. The last part of the Formartine & Buchan line to close was the Dyce to Fraserburgh section, in autumn 1979. The track was lifted in 1980 but the route was protected for possible future reopening. The track bed passed to Grampian Regional Council and, on local government reorganisation in 1996, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council assumed ownership of the sections in their respective council areas. Suggestions of reopening some or all of the Formartine & Buchan line have appeared fairly frequently since closure. Through the 1990s and the first decade of this century though, the priority for rail enhancements in the north-east was seen as reopening stations on and upgrading the existing line north and south of Aberdeen. Then, in May 2013, Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee requested the North East of Scotland Transport Partnership (Nestrans) investigate the feasibility of restoring a modern rail link to the ‘Buchan area’. A Nestrans study is now considering a range of options for improving transport connections between Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Aberdeen.
“There is every reason to be optimistic about the prospects for a partially reopened Buchan line.”
Also relevant are a regional transport appraisal of the future needs of the north-east, agreed last year as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, and the review of the National Transport Strategy. A potential transport project in the Fraserburgh/Peterhead/Aberdeen corridor should thus be considered at both regional and national levels.
line reopening, unanimity on what to do there is not. Some councillors believe the priority should be upgrading the A90 trunk road to dual carriageway north of Ellon. Even amongst rail supporters, there are differences of view about whether the line should be reopened to Ellon, or to Fraserburgh, or to Peterhead, or to the southern outskirts of Peterhead using the former Boddam branch, or to Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
Crucially, the rail line routing from Ellon to Aberdeen via Dyce actually includes three of the road transport corridors feeding into Aberdeen from the north. Reopening the line between Ellon and Dyce would provide a rail alternative to the A90 (from Ellon), the B999 (at Udny) and the A947 (at Newmachar). There is certainly considerable potential for park-and-ride use, in addition to passengers from the settlements along the rail route. Traffic volumes on the A947 between Dyce and Newmachar are reaching a level where consideration of a dual carriageway is being suggested. Dyce is a significant employment centre and the location of Aberdeen airport. The local development plan allocates land for more house building in Newmachar and almost a thousand further homes in Ellon.
Last autumn, Nestrans agreed that specific consideration should be given to reopening the line as far as a parkand-ride station just north of Ellon. This was based on the experience with the Borders Railway, where the use of Tweedbank for long-distance park-and-ride has contributed disproportionately to the overall success of the reopened line. A station adjacent to one of the ‘A’ roads just north of Ellon could potentially be easily accessed from a wide catchment area, including Fraserburgh and Peterhead, by car or bus.
Consultations carried out as part of the Nestrans Fraserburgh/Peterhead/Aberdeen corridor study have shown there is significant public support for reopening the Buchan railway. There is cross-party backing on Aberdeenshire Council for the principle, subject to an appropriate cost:benefit ratio, and some local parliamentary representatives have expressed strong support.
Given the wider context – existing road congestion, the need to reduce carbon emissions from transport, the popularity of other rail reopenings – I do believe the time has come for moving forward on reopening the line to Ellon, or to a parkand-ride station just north of Ellon. Based on the experience with the Borders Railway and other rail reopenings, there is every reason to be optimistic about the prospects for a partially reopened Buchan line.
Although there is general goodwill towards the idea of Buchan
Of course, whatever opinions and views there may be, any decision to take forward reopening must be based on sound evidence. The current Nestrans study should enable an informed view on whether, in principle, there is a case to proceed, at least to more detailed study.
22 SUMMER 2017
Has a sustainable railway been delivered in Britain? Professor John Preston, Professor of Rail Transport, University of Southampton
Rail has some innate advantages which explain its longevity as a transport technology. As a low-friction, steel-on-steel, system, it has energy efficiency characteristics that should make it environmentally benign. Its segregated right of way gives it advantages over competing road services, leading to economic efficiency advantages. As a collective form of subsidised transport it should have social advantages. Hence when the White Paper Delivering a Sustainable Railway was published ten years ago, one might have thought it was knocking at an open door.
One interesting statistic is the average of the rolling stock fleet. In 2005-06 this was 13.2 years, and by 2015-16 this increased to 21.0 years. This indicates a number of things. Rail assets are long-lived, which means it is difficult to adopt state-of-the art technology quickly. Rolling stock investment has tended to be highly cyclical, with the last bulge after privatisation in the mid-1990s. There has been relatively little investment in the last ten years, although this is changing with the latest round of franchises. However, franchisees have relatively short time horizons (typically seven to eight years) and will be more interested in minimising up-front costs than life-cycle costs, which could mean environmental considerations lose out.
“It is hard to believe that the rail industry has become more sustainable over the last ten years.”
What has happened in these ten years? Has a sustainable railway been delivered? On the face of it, over the last ten years there has been something of a boom. Demand is at record levels. Passenger kilometres on the national rail system have increased by 49%. Supply has also increased, with passenger train kilometres on the national rail network up by 16%. However, the passenger market contrasts with the rail freight industry where tonne kilometres moved decreased by 18%, with recent declines in coal and steel-related business.
However, if you look under the surface there are some less favourable trends. Receipts per passenger kilometre have increased in real terms by 14%. This is good for the operators but less so for passengers who, despite fare regulation, have faced higher ticket prices and exhibited persistent low satisfaction in terms of value for money. Rail’s very success has also been the source of problems. With demand growing more quickly than supply, the inevitable result has been increased congestion in terms of overcrowding on trains and additional delays. After a period of improvement following the Hatfield accident in 2000, service reliability (as measured by the Public Performance Measure) has begun to fall back. Passenger satisfaction with information during disruption remains stubbornly low, despite some improvements in information provision. Government support to the industry has reduced in real terms over the last ten years by 13% but remains at historically high levels, at £4,771 million in 2015-16, with a further £6,614 million loan to Network Rail. Comparative reviews, such as those instigated by McNulty, suggest that rail cost efficiency might be up to one-third lower than the best performing railways in continental Europe. Transport economists such as Andrew Smith at the University of Leeds have noted that, contrary to expectations, rail costs have increased following privatisation, particularly following the Hatfield accident and the subsequent collapse of Railtrack and its replacement by Network Rail. Although there are difficulties in making comparisons, between 2004 and 2014 industry emissions of greenhouse gases increased slightly (by around 9%). This could be seen as an achievement given the increase in traffic volumes, but it is clearly a long way off a target of an 80% reduction by 2050. There have also been increases in emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide from the rail industry over this period, whilst emissions of particulates have been stable and emissions of sulphur dioxide have decreased.
Overall, it is hard to believe that the rail industry has become more sustainable over the last ten years. In economic terms, costs and governmental support remain high. Although rail has contributed to the success of the London economy, arguably it has done less for the rest of the country. The recent and proposed mega-projects (High Speed 1 and 2, Crossrail 1 and 2, Thameslink) have a London focus, whilst the Northern Powerhouse can’t even deliver electrification of the North TransPennine route, and there are no proposals to properly link Scotland (or Wales) to the High Speed network. Socially, rail is a form of transport predominantly used by the well-off, with high ‘Anytime’ fares and complex ticketing structures acting as important barriers. Environmentally, rail has some advantages over rival modes, but it has not pressed home this advantage over the last ten years, with the automotive sector closing the gap. The Department for Transport and the Office of Rail and Road seem to pay little heed to the concept of sustainability, although the 2007 White Paper suggested that the industry structure was sustainable. The House of Commons Transport Select Committee, however, disputed that then and it is difficult to come to a different conclusion now.
The privatisation of British Rail Emerita Professor Jean Shaoul, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester
More than 20 years after the break-up of British Rail (BR) into more than 100 companies, and its subsequent privatisation in 1995-96, and with the seemingly potential privatisation of the National Health Service and education, it is pertinent to ask: what has been the impact of privatising BR? The last of the major privatisations, it was one of the most conscious under-selling operations ever carried out, with the assets built up by generations of taxpayers sold for a song. It was justified on the supposed superiority of the free market in delivering investment and efficiency from which all would benefit. Fares, both regulated and unregulated, have increased by an average of 117%, or by 24% in real terms, and are among the most expensive, if not the most expensive, in Europe. Yet the UK’s railways are slower, subject to more cancellations, and more overcrowded than the predominantly publiclyowned rail services in Germany, France, Italy and Spain. While passenger journeys have increased, this is due not to privatisation per se but to the long-term growth in GDP, changing commuting patterns as employment has concentrated in major urban areas, particularly in London and the South-East, and the increase in congestion and motoring costs. Subsidies that were supposed to have been eliminated following privatisation rose to around £5 billion a year, excluding the support and loans to Network Rail, at least three times more than that paid out under the nationalised regime. Despite falling slightly, they are still double the level recorded (in real terms) in 1985-86. While some of the train operators pay the government a share of their profits, all but one of them receive more in subsidies than they return in the form of franchise payments to the government. They would be unprofitable without the subsidies, both direct and indirect. The overwhelming majority of new investment in the railways in recent years has been paid for by Network Rail, mainly
as a result of taxpayer funding or government-underwritten borrowing. While in the first years after privatisation, the largely invisible rolling stock companies, the most profitable companies in the privatised railway industry, procured new locomotives, there was little risk involved since they recovered – via the leasing charges to the train operators – 75% of the cost of their trains within five years, well within the franchise period. The new trains have undoubtedly brought many advantages to passengers, including faster, safer trains and increased capacity, although this is insufficient to meet increased demand. There is, however, general agreement in the industry that the trains are not as reliable as they should be, leading to increased delays on congested parts of the network. While the investment costs would have had to be funded under public ownership, they would not have been so high due to the lower cost of public borrowing and the lower cost and greater efficiency of operating in an integrated industry. However, this in turn means that the public as taxpayers and passengers have funded the increased and more costly investment, not the private sector as successive governments and the industry have claimed.
“It is impossible for railways anywhere in the world to make the rate of return on capital that the stock market requires.”
More than half of all railway jobs have been lost while wages and conditions have deteriorated. On some services, cancellations are frequent due to a lack of drivers. Train operators are seeking to introduce driver-only operated trains, in a bid to boost their profits. None of this was unexpected since, as a highly capitalintensive industry, it is impossible for railways anywhere in the world to make the rate of return on capital that the stock market requires, and maintain and enhance the rail system through fares alone. Hence, public subsidies and capital grants have been necessary. Furthermore, there was little ‘slack’ in Britain where the nationalised rail industry had the highest labour productivity in Europe, as the government admitted at privatisation. It is yet another – very expensive - refutation of the myth, so assiduously promoted by big business and the government, to justify privatisation: that the corporations are more efficient at delivering public services than the public sector. “Increased efficiency” was the mantra used to justify a deeply unpopular measure that has created winners and losers: the gains of the financial elite, the corporations and banks, have been at the expense of generations of past, present and future taxpayers, as well as the workforce and passengers. It has contributed to the ever-increasing inequality that is the hallmark of Britain today.
24 SUMMER 2017
New solutions for Scotland’s railways: beyond privatisation and state ownership Duncan Thorp, Policy and Communications Officer, Social Enterprise Scotland Almost everyone in Scotland has a train travel story. Catching up with an old friend, a cancelled train, a cheap ticket deal, overcrowding, fantastic views, or the funny guy on the 23.30 from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Our railways are very much at the heart of our society. They’ve transformed our way of life, grown the economy and changed how we travel. Through the years of fragmented privately-run lines, to state ownership, the Beeching cuts and then privatisation, the railways have been through much upheaval. But through all the many changes in services, new technologies, ownership models, companies, tragedies and successes, one factor has remained at the heart of our rail system. That is the lack of democracy. You may think that this means nationalisation. With the old British Rail, state-owned trains were directed by and accountable to elected politicians. Perhaps we should bring that back? Or perhaps the dynamic business model of shareholder ownership is the way forward. Anyone can buy shares, right? However, neither of these options works in the real world. Through decades of transformation, the voice of rail employees and the public has remained at the sidelines. This is bizarre. The actual experts – passengers and workers – have little say in running our railways. Do corporate CEOs or government officials really know best? Privatisation of Britain’s railways has not been a success. Public support for ‘public ownership’ is consistently high. A small number of people have become very wealthy on the back of privatisation, with vast sums of taxpayers’ money still being used to subsidise private companies. Shareholderdriven profiteering of public transport does not and cannot work in the interests of the public. But what about the great British Rail? In the later years, financially starved and creaking rolling stock meant that this was no such thing. A 1970s-style, centralised, topdown system lacks dynamism. Of course, in preparation for privatisation, public services are deliberately underfunded. But British Rail was never owned by the public; it was owned by the state. These are not the same thing. Scotland’s railways have been in the media for all the wrong reasons. But it’s easy to attack without understanding the complex issues they deal with, and without suggesting alternatives. We should value those working on our railways. Of course the supreme irony is that, while our trains are privatised, they are run by a Dutch state company. So what other options are there? Contrary to political debate, there are unlimited alternatives. Unfortunately, policy chatter about public services only ever remains within a very narrow window of privatisation versus the state. We need to get off that hamster wheel. We need some imagination. The Scottish Government and their agency Transport Scotland are currently weighing up options. While the ScotRail franchise is not yet up for renewal, it reaches the half-way point around the end of next year. There is scope for a review process at that point. Current UK Government legislation means that there must still be an open tender process with a variety of bids when the contract ends.
So what could that alternative bid look like? Well, Scotland’s railways could be transformed into a new, national social enterprise, owned by the community – by the people of Scotland. This would have strong public support, a vote winner for any political party adopting the policy. Social enterprises and co-operatives are practical, successful businesses. They operate across Scotland and the world at every scale and in many parts of the economy, including transport. The Wise Group, Buchan Dial-a-Community Bus, Social Bite, Handicabs Lothian, The Big Issue, Lister Housing Co-operative, Suncoast Credit Union (USA), Welsh Water, Glasgow Housing Association and Mondragon (Basque country). The list is diverse and impressive. We should of course have a first-class rail network for everyone, focused on reliability, punctuality, flexibility, comfort, technology innovation, customer service, the environment and local communities. Customers should come first. In practice this would mean rail passengers on the company board and no private shareholders. The company should be democratic: a business that’s managed by the employees, with elected directors, getting rid of top-down centralisation. It’s vital that it’s a financially sustainable company: a profitable, independent and responsive Scottish business, with a partnership of both public and social investment. The company should be ethical, with a remit to put people and positive social impact at the core of the business. Aligned with this, the company would be rooted in local communities and work in genuine partnership with other social enterprises across Scotland. If we took forward these core guiding principles, we could have much-improved customer-focused railways. We would also have a brilliant, new, Scottish company that put people and planet first. Now is the right time to build a social enterprise rail service for Scotland.
“Scotland’s railways could be transformed into a new, national social enterprise, owned by the community.”
Oban line regeneration and the national context Paul Tetlaw, Rail Campaigner, Transform Scotland
The Beeching era witnessed a savage butchering of rail routes across Britain in the 1960s. Rural Scotland fared better than other rural areas in England and Wales, with the survival of the Far North Line, the Kyle Line and the West Highland Line, but Scotland did lose many lines that today would be valuable transport links. Some lines and stations have reopened, and in most cases actual passenger figures have far exceeded projections. Rail passenger use is booming across Britain, and Scotland very much mirrors this trend with annual passenger numbers expected to exceed 100 million in a few years’ time. It is interesting to note that total passenger numbers at the top five stations in Scotland now exceed those at the top five stations in all regions of England and Wales – apart from London. Whilst the top five stations are all in urban Scotland, rural rail use is also enjoying a welcome revival – and no more so than on the Oban line. After closure of the Callander route in 1965, Oban was left with only three all-year trains, and with the loss of seasonal enhancements in the 1980s became the worst-served town in Scotland, with an earliest arrival at 11.30am. As such, the train service existed mainly to connect with ferries for Mull, Tiree and other islands, and because buses also did so, communities along the route found it of minimal use for local travel since the train ran at the same times as the bus. Train did at least become more competitive with bus on the introduction of the Highland Railcard offering a 50% discount to local residents, and two stations reopened: Loch Awe in 1985, and three years later Falls of Cruachan, which became a summer-only call to serve the nearby visitor centre for the Cruachan Power Station, where entry is free to those arriving by public or low-carbon transport (rail, bus, bicycle or on foot). From 2005 the Highland Rail Partnership (later absorbed
into HITRANS), having achieved agreement to a four-train minimum frequency on other Highland rural routes, began pressing for an ‘Oban Five’ enhancement of two extra trains each way between Oban and Glasgow. However, events were to better them when Argyll and Bute Council advanced a scheme for secondary pupils at Oban High School to travel by train instead of school bus. This was a ‘win-win’ situation, since the Council would save money and the additional trains would be available for use by anyone. Commencing in May 2014, the Oban-Glasgow service was doubled to six trains daily, with an additional teatime service between Oban and Dalmally, and the benefits to the community are proving substantial and wide-ranging. 2014-15 ridership on the West Highland Line showed a 14% rise on the previous year, which was almost entirely attributable to the Oban enhancement, and growth has continued. From 1998 to 2015, Oban’s train passengers nearly doubled, and other stations like Taynuilt and Dalmally saw more than a tripling of traffic. Initial resistance by some parents has been overcome (the bus service had sometimes been disrupted by accidents on the A85), as have perceived safety issues arising from the 2010 Falls of Cruachan derailment and on the walking routes to stations.
“The railway in Scotland is valued not only for the vital links it provides to our towns and cities but also for the way it serves our rural communities.”
Other indications of the Oban line’s good health include: • the adaptation of the fine station building no longer in railway ownership at Dalmally to house a felt-making business; • the Friends of the West Highland Line’s success in clearing lineside tree growth along Loch Awe (where the station has also benefitted) and in Glencruitten to restore scenic views; • the Caledonian Sleeper’s reported interest in restoring Oban to its network after the Fort William Sleeper was successfully diverted there during engineering works north of Crianlarich. These are all good omens for the Oban line’s further development over the next few years, which should see the arrival of improved rolling stock to accommodate ScotRail’s Scenic Trains offer and the creation of a Community Rail Partnership. Some 50 years on from the Beeching era, there is now a real sense that the railway in Scotland is valued not only for the vital links it provides to our towns and cities but also for the way it serves our rural communities. Whilst many politicians still remain wedded to the idea that further road building will boost the economy of Scotland, it is pleasing to note that expansion of our rail network is now very much back on the agenda.
Dalmally railway station.
26 SUMMER 2017
Railways of Scotland: the 1939 Newbigin Memorial Essay by Andrew O’Dell (1909-66) Kenneth Maclean FRSGS, RSGS Collections Team A series of nine maps, taken from the 1939 Scottish Geographical Magazine (SGM), illustrates Scotland’s expanding railway network by decades from 1830 to 1937, and is part of a prize-winning article, A Geographical Examination of the Development of Scottish Railways. It was written by Andrew O’Dell, lecturer in Geography at Birkbeck College, London. Later, after wartime research for the Admiralty’s Geographical Handbooks and at the Department of Health for Scotland, he was appointed departmental head at the University of Aberdeen, becoming the university’s first Professor of Geography in 1951. While building up a very successful department, O’Dell furthered his research and teaching interests in Shetland’s historical geography, the Highlands and Islands, Scandinavia, and transportation geography, particularly railways. Stemming from London school days, railways were an early passion for O’Dell. Holidays afforded further opportunities to travel on both underground and surface lines throughout the south-east of England, gaining thereby a detailed knowledge of local and regional rail systems. Through time, his hobby became a professional interest that led from his SGM Scottish-oriented essay to the global reticles of his textbook Railways and Geography, published in 1956. O’Dell maintained that by studying railways, “geographers can obtain an excellent conspectus of the physical environment and economic development of various regions.” His original essay betrays something of his geographical perspective on Scottish railways. He illustrated Scotland’s developing network of railways. On the nine maps, The growth of railways in Scotland by decades. the solid lines represent the situation on 31st December of the year indicated; the dotted lines depict those tracks built in the succeeding ten years. O’Dell’s text and maps illustrate the expanding Scottish network from original 18th-century mineral tramways; how it outgrew the Midland Valley coalfields by 1840; had crossed the Southern Uplands to link Scotland with England, and reached
northwards to Aberdeen by 1850; stretched to Inverness by 1860; and in the following decades linked up with its extremities at Wick, Thurso, Oban, Stromeferry and Portpatrick by 1880, Fort William by 1894, and Mallaig in 1901. He maintained that railway maps made it easy to distinguish the major regional divisions of Scotland. To quote O’Dell, “The Southern Uplands have criss-cross routes, the Central Lowlands an intricate mesh of interwoven lines, the North-East has numerous branch lines all focusing on Aberdeen, and in the Highlands the only railways are main lines.” He emphasised that physical factors were significant. For example, relief “dictated the major lines of communication.” Although the U-shaped glacial valleys of the Highlands and Southern Uplands proved useful as routeways, on low ground it was frequently necessary to construct dykes to raise railways above floodplains, as with the embankment along the River Earn on the Crieff to Comrie line. Heavy snowfall was a risk, eg a record 60-foot drift on Dava Moor, as were rock falls in the Pass of Brander, and drifting sand at Burghead. The solutions lay in technology whose advances, invariably, were expensive.
“By studying railways, ‘geographers can obtain an excellent conspectus of the physical environment and economic development of various regions.’”
For this essay, O’Dell became the first recipient of the RSGS Newbigin Memorial Essay Award in 1938. Such an award was a fitting tribute to Dr Marion Newbigin (1869-1934), a biologist-turned-geographer, who very successfully served the Society for 32 years as a meticulous Editor of the Scottish Geographical Magazine from 1902 till her death: years during which she helped build up the Society’s reputation, with SGM acquiring an influential position among academic periodicals. Newbigin wrote extensively, and her prodigious output included two school books on Scotland. Railways played a prominent role in both books, showing the inter-relationships between railways and factors such as relief, drainage, distribution of population and industry. As she emphasised in her Elementary Geography of Scotland (1913), “Special stress… has been laid upon the relation of the railways to physical features: for the complicated geography of Scotland can best be approached from this side.”
RSGS Members can enjoy free online access to all the historical volumes of the Scottish Geographical Magazine, from 1885 onwards, as well as free online access to all volumes of its successor, the Scottish Geographical Journal (SGJ), right up to the current edition. If you would like to try it out, please contact RSGS HQ with your membership number, name and email address; we will then ask Routledge Taylor & Francis, the publishers of the SGJ, to contact you with an e-voucher. RSGS Members are also entitled to receive free printed copies of the current SGJ. You can choose online access or printed copies or both, and you can change your preferences at any time – just let us know.
Unravelling the North Korean nuclear crisis Dr Lauren Richardson, Teaching Fellow in Japanese-Korean Relations and Politics, University of Edinburgh
North Korea’s nuclear and missile arsenal has long constituted a security flashpoint in East Asia. Yet recent weeks have witnessed tensions surrounding this arsenal reach critical proportions. This has manifested in the form of a rhetorical nuclear standoff between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, vast displays of military prowess and posturing on both sides, and a series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests by Pyongyang with assurances of more to come. What explains this rapid escalation of the North Korean nuclear issue? There are three contextual factors at play. The first concerns the recent deployment of a missile defence system in South Korea —the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). This was installed by the United States in April 2017, and is designed to intercept and shoot down North Korean ballistic missiles. The device has greatly antagonized Pyongyang (not to mention Beijing) as the regime is heavily reliant upon its nuclear and missile arsenal to deter against its own perceived security threats. By extension, this arsenal functions as the greatest insurance policy for the regime’s survival. The THAAD system thus dealt a grievous blow to Pyongyang’s ‘nuclear deterrent’ capability. Leader Kim Jong-un has therefore been keen to signal to Seoul and Washington that his nuclear weapons ambitions will not be thwarted. The result has been a significant increase in the number of ballistic missile tests conducted by Pyongyang since the THAAD deployment plans were announced in 2016. In fact, some of these tests were specifically designed to evade interception by THAAD, evidenced by the launching of missiles into higher than usual altitudes. The second factor relates to the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president earlier this year. While Trump has yet to officially promulgate his North Korea policy, he has evidently moved away from the ‘strategic patience’ policy advocated by his predecessor, Barack Obama; this policy line was focused on long-term denuclearisation and the avoidance of reactionary responses to North Korean acts of belligerence. By contrast, Trump, who has a demonstrable tendency to ‘take the bait’ of his adversaries, is attempting to beat the North Korean regime at its own belligerent game. This has led to an ongoing rhetorical and military standoff between the two leaders. Indeed, Washington mobilised a naval carrier – the USS Carl Vinson – in a display of military might after Pyongyang’s recent missile tests. US Vice-President Mike Pence, meanwhile, cautioned Kim Jong-un against testing his administration’s military resolve: “the sword stands ready,” he warned, and we will utilise “overwhelming force” if necessary. Pyongyang retorted to the effect that “our revolutionary forces are combat-
ready to sink a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike.” North Korea’s military also marked its 85th anniversary by conducting its “largest ever” live-fire drill. A third factor behind the escalation of the nuclear crisis has been the lead-up to the South Korean presidential elections, held on 9th May 2017. According to data collected by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC, North Korean provocations typically intensify when there is a leadership transition in South Korea. These provocations, characterised by nuclear and ballistic missile tests, are aimed in part at driving a wedge between South Korea and its US ally, as leadership change heralds new policies, and in Pyongyang’s calculation bellicose behaviour can produce differential policy responses from Seoul and Washington, resulting in a divergence. So should we be bracing for nuclear warfare? Perhaps not just quite yet. While recent events signify a definitive escalation of the nuclear issue and a sharp deterioration in US-North Korea relations, this is not the first of such occurrences. Indeed, Pyongyang has long been threatening to reduce the United States to ashes, but has never acted on these statements. However, a troubling sign from the recent tensions is that North Korea has demonstrated that its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programme is growing ever more sophisticated. It is only a matter of time before the regime develops a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the US mainland. Once this happens, American leaders will no longer be able to treat Pyongyang’s nuclear threats as mere rhetoric, and will be more inclined to take military action.
“North Korea has demonstrated that its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programme is growing ever more sophisticated.”
28 SUMMER 2017
The Highland Main Line and the White Pass and Yukon Railway: compare and contrast Richard Ardern The Canadian Yukon was opened up by the building of the 110-mile narrow gauge railway from Skagway (in Alaska) to Whitehorse in the years 1898 to 1900. The White Pass and Yukon Railway (WPYR) rises from sea level to a height of 2,865 feet through difficult terrain and deep drifting snow in winter. Crews worked in numbing one-hour shifts throughout the short winter days, with temperatures commonly below minus 40 degrees.
The Northern Highlands were opened up to industry, commerce and the movement of people by the building of 104 miles of the standard gauge Highland Main Line (HML) between 1861 and 1863. It rises to 1,484 feet at the Drumochter Pass where, like the White Pass, it could also be cold and snowy but not so extreme.
Construction of the WPYR was in response to the Gold Rush. My great-uncle had relayed his one ton of stores over the White Pass on his back in April 1898, built his own boat at Lake Bennett and then sailed 600 miles down the Yukon to Dawson City, where he lived until his death in 1950.
The HML includes important flows of tourists, one of Scotland’s biggest industries. Its main role is in business and leisure (social) travel between the Highlands and the Central Belt (and England) and vice versa. It badly needs upgrading to double track. It is already over capacity, and delays of any kind to one train disrupt others throughout the day. Doubling the line will allow faster passenger trains still to compete with the soon-to-be-doubled A9, and an expansion of freight to cover the huge latent demand in the timber and whisky-related industries and in the transport of groceries, parcels and fuels such as oil and gas. This would be safer and cleaner, helping achieve government emissions reduction targets. Electrifying the line would give a massive boost, as electric trains are so much faster on long steep gradients.
Within two years, the line was in regular use carrying people and supplies inbound and minerals and people in the opposite direction. The WPYR experienced some competition from coastal shipping. The Yukon also had an alternative means of supply by steamer upstream for 1,000 miles from the mouth of the river (in the summer months when it was not frozen over).
The railway to Inverness also experienced competition from coastal shipping.
“The economy of the Highlands, and of Scotland, is being seriously constrained by the lack of development of this strategic railway.”
The WPYR survived until 1982, chiefly by carrying minerals from the interior to the coast for export. Chief amongst these were lead, zinc, copper and silver as well as gold. The company can also claim to be the first in the world to develop containerised shipping, loading their narrow gauge containers onto cargo ships from 1955, but recession and low mineral prices led to closure of the line in October 1982. The WPYR reopened in 1988 as a seasonal passenger-only railway coping with the ever-increasing number of tourists who arrive in Skagway on cruise ships. They are offered a stunningly scenic ride to the White Pass Summit and back, and there are up to four eight-coach trains in convoy to cope with the numbers. The line reopened as far as Lake Bennett, and now to Carcross at the far end of the lake, and remains a significant draw for tourists. Could the White Pass and Yukon Railway show the way for a rail passenger boom in tourists in the Scottish Highlands?
The economy of the Highlands, and of Scotland, is being seriously constrained by the lack of development of this strategic railway. This is also the case between Perth and Edinburgh, where the original direct route was shut in 1969 to permit motorway building. We have just one ‘land cruise’ train, the Royal Scotsman, which caters for the rich American market. The railway makes no attempt to provide services to the thousands of cruise passengers who disembark for the day at Invergordon. There will be 91 berthings landing some 142,000 passengers in 2017, a 45% increase on 2016. Distilleries, castles such as Dunrobin, the Flow Country and Thurso for views to Orkney could all be visited by train. In Scotland, we are sitting on Victorian railway assets which need some investment attention paid to them so that they can contribute so much more to Scotland’s economy.
© White Pass and Yukon Railway
Canada at 150 Janice Charette, High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom
I can think of few more fitting places than the RSGS to take a few moments and reflect upon the bonds between Canada and Scotland as we mark 150 years since Canadian Confederation. Indeed, our very story of nationhood started with a proud Scot: Sir John A Macdonald, a Glaswegian, a father of Confederation, and Canada’s first Prime Minister. But the Scotland-Canada story is so much more than one man. The RSGS is a community that shares a passion for people, places and our planet. In its support of exploration and research, RSGS continues to have a firm friend across the Atlantic, where historical links have blossomed into a modern, thriving exchange of ideas. Today, there are more than 4.5 million Canadians who proudly claim Scottish ancestry – my husband among them! For generations, brave and ambitious Scots ventured across the Atlantic, bound for Canada; months spent at sea facing danger, hardships, storms, icebergs, disease and malnutrition, that delivered them to a Canadian landscape that was inescapably harsh, yet familiar in many ways. As John Buchan, the great Scottish thriller writer who went on to become Governor General of Canada, rightly noted, “Canada in one sense is simply Scotland writ large… I find pine forests, mountains and swift streams which are Scotland on a grander scale.” The Scots who embarked on that adventure brought their ideas, inventiveness and ingenuity with them, and played an enormous part in making Canada what it is today, helping to shape our richly diverse, multicultural society. Nineteenth-century Scotland was a land of industrial innovation, and Canada was to be the beneficiary of that know-how, as skilled workers and entrepreneurs joined hard-working economic migrants in search of new lives and new challenges that were, as Buchan had duly promised, “writ large”. They explored, surveyed and opened up vast tracts of land; they traded furs and timber; they built farms, schools, towns and cities, bridges, railways and shipping lines; they created newspapers; and they developed Canada’s banking and education systems, making a deep mark on the development of their adopted homeland.
national historic sites across the country, so do come and visit us. As modern nations, both Canada and Scotland continue to profit from our many ties and shared values. There are ever-growing partnerships between Canadian and Scottish companies and universities working to develop renewable energy resources, especially wind, wave and tidal, as we work to tackle sustainable energy challenges for future generations. We continue to build on our common strengths: world-class education systems, internationally-recognised research communities, highly-skilled workforces, and thriving creative industries.
“Scotland has been a major influence on Canadian culture.”
Scotland has been a major influence on Canadian culture. Scotland gave curling to Canada – something that we like to think we play rather well! Scottish roots thrive in Highland Games held across the country each year, complete with dancing, piping, drumming, Celtic music and ceilidhs. Burns Night suppers feature on the calendars of many Canadians, who have at times adopted their own, unique slant that reflects a country that celebrates diversity and multiculturalism as part of its official policy. In Vancouver, Burns Night and Chinese New Year have been combined into a major event – the Gung Haggis Fat Choy festival – where Scots-Canadians, Chinese-Canadians and indeed Canadians of all origins enjoy haggis dim sum and single malt whisky while watching a traditional Chinese Dragon Dance to the accompaniment of the bagpipes. Talk about a passion for people and places! Our cultural links come to the fore in Edinburgh each summer, when Canadian talent converges to share their cultural wares via the most cherished and imaginative group of festivals in the world. This year’s dedicated Canada Hub will set up temporary home in the King’s Hall, offering a taste of Canadian theatre. Do seek out Canada across all of the festivals this summer, and help us to celebrate the many ties that bind. Slàinte! To celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary, the winter 2017-18 edition of The Geographer will have a general theme of ‘Canada’.
Scottish migrants were at the forefront of science and engineering. Among them were Alexander Graham Bell – who made the first long-distance telephone call from Brantford, Ontario – and Sandford Fleming – who not only mapped great swathes of Canada but was responsible for engineering the Canadian Pacific Railway and also invented the concept of Standard Time so that he would never miss a train. The Scots also made great strides in business, and by the 1880s almost half of Canada’s industrial leaders had recent Scottish origins. Indeed, Sir John A Macdonald not only played a crucial role in Confederation, but also founded Canada’s world-famous Mounted Police, and created Canada’s first national park. To mark this special year in our history, it is worth noting that the Parks Canada 2017 Discovery Pass gives visitors free entry to all of Canada’s national parks, national marine conservation areas, and
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada. © Lorna Ogilvie
30 SUMMER 2017
The Myth Gap
Forbidden Stories From Inside North Korea
What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough
In 1989, a North Korean dissident writer began to write stories about life under Kim Il-sung’s totalitarian regime. Bandi’s profound, vividly characterised stories tell of ordinary men and women facing the terrible absurdity of daily life in North Korea: a factory supervisor caught between loyalty to an old friend and loyalty to the Party; a woman struggling to feed her husband through the great famine; the staunch Party man whose actor son reveals to him the absurd theatre of their reality; the mother raising her child in a world where the allpervasive propaganda is the very stuff of childhood nightmare. A heart-breaking portrayal of the realities of life in North Korea, it is also a reminder that the courage of free thought has a power far beyond those who seek to suppress it.
Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide George Bradshaw (Collins, October 2016) Bradshaw’s original tourist guide to rail travel, produced at a time that the railways became essential for tourism as well as infrastructure, was the star of the television series Great Continental Railway Journeys. Recreated from the Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide and General Handbook Illustrated with Local and other Maps ‘special edition’ from 1853, and also Bradshaw’s General Shareholders Manual and Directory 1853, this fascinating larger-format facsimile edition gives you the chance to explore what is now common, through the eyes of a continent for whom rail travel was still a novelty of the age, providing a fascinating view of European railway travel in the 19th century.
Alex Evans (Eden Project Books, January 2017) Once upon a time our society was rich in stories. They united us and helped us to understand the world and ourselves. We called them myths. Today, we have a myth gap. Drawing on his experience as a political adviser within British government and at the United Nations, Alex Evans argues persuasively that in this time of global crisis and transition – mass migration, inequality, resource scarcity, and climate change – it is only by finding new myths, that speak to us of renewal and restoration, that we will navigate our way to a better future. Stories, rather than facts and piecharts, have the power to animate us and bring us together to change the world.
The Idea of North Peter Davidson (Reaktion Books, April 2016) As with the compass needle, so people have always been most powerfully attracted northwards; everyone carries within them their own concept of north. The Idea of North is a study, ranging widely in time and place, of some of the ways in which these ideas have found expression, from Renaissance winter paintings to 20thcentury topographical printmaking, and from Scandinavian sagas to the Moomintrolls. Peter Davidson explores the topography of north as represented in images and literature, and traces a northward journey, describing northern rural England, industrial sites, and the long emptiness of the borders, Scotland and the Highlands. He looks at the region far north of Scotland, then moves to the Northern Netherlands, Scandinavia and Iceland, exploring their identifiable ‘northern-ness’.
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The Making of the British Landscape From the Ice Age to the Present Nicholas Crane (W&N, October 2016) The British landscape has been continuously occupied by humans for 12,000 years, from the end of the Ice Age to the 21st century. It has been transformed from a European peninsula of glacier and tundra to an island of glittering cities and exquisite countryside. In this geographical journey through time, RSGS Mungo Park Medallist Nicholas Crane explores the ancient relationship between people and place, and the deep-rooted tensions between town and countryside. The twin drivers of landscape change – climate and population – have arguably wielded as much influence on our habitat as monarchs and politics. From tsunamis and farming to Roman debacles and industrial cataclysms, from henge to high-rise and hamlet to metropolis, this is a book about change and adaptation. As Britain lurches from an exploitative past towards a more sustainable future, this is the story of our age.
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Bandi (Serpent’s Tail, March 2017)
Down the Tracks: The Future of Rail