A £650m scheme to upgrade Scotland’s flagship railway line will cut journey times between Glasgow and Edinburgh by ten minutes.
The Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP), which was announced by Transport Minister Keith Brown on Wednesday morning, is expected to create hundreds of jobs.
The project will see longer electric trains introduced between Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh via Falkirk High. The Scottish Government estimates that the improvements will cut journey times by ten minutes, from the current 50-minute travel time between Scotland’s largest city and its capital.
Passengers will also enjoy wifi access on all services between the two cities by the end of 2013.
Launching the programme at Glasgow’s Queen Street station, Mr Brown said: “I am very excited to be announcing the details of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme, which will take train journeys on Scotland’s busiest commuter route into the next generation.
“These enhancements to the service will be a massive boost for both cities, and all the communities which surround them, as well as benefiting Scotland’s economy as a whole through additional jobs and investment. And of course, passengers will enjoy quicker journeys, full wifi connectivity and better trains.”
The plans will additionally transform Queen Street station into a “world-class integrated transport hub” and deliver the Edinburgh Gateway Station, connecting services to Edinburgh Airport.
The announcement is a revamp of earlier EGIP plans which ministers say makes savings of £300m on the original projections. The government has also hailed the upgrade as environmentally friendly, providing “a cleaner, greener and quieter railway with lower carbon emissions”. It is also expected that the changes will create hundreds of jobs and sustain thousands more.
Mr Brown added: “The rail industry is always evolving and we have taken advantage of a number of developments to future proof this project. While the original EGIP plans were the best possible way of achieving these improvements at the time, the new proposals not only secure faster times between Edinburgh and Glasgow they will increase capacity, revitalise Queen St Station and protect local commuter services into Glasgow.
“The new scheme, which is already on site at Haymarket Station, will not only save hundreds of millions for the public purse but will also play a part in guaranteeing we have a railway service for the future.”
The programme further provides for the electrification of Cumbernauld services in time for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 and will foreground the Scottish Government’s aspirations for high-speed rail.
Mr Brown said: “The first stage of improvements will be delivered in time for the Commonwealth Games with electrification of rail services to Cumbernauld.
“This Scottish Government recognises the importance of our railways and we have illustrated our commitment to them with record levels of investment.
“I look forward to seeing all the benefits EGIP will bring to Scotland, not just in transport but in improvements to our environment, the boost to our jobs market and economy and the health benefits from the reduction in carbon emissions.”
Both major cities welcomed the announcement.
Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, was with Mr Brown to launch the project at Queen Street. He said: “Glasgow is the driver of Scotland’s economy and this announcement is good news for the city. Improvements to the service between Glasgow and Edinburgh will bring significant benefits to both passengers and to business."
Councillor Lesley Hinds, Transport Convener of Edinburgh City Council, added: "We welcome this investment in public transport which will greatly improve the journey from Glasgow to Edinburgh through the provision of a quicker service for passengers and the introduction of cleaner, more efficient, rolling stock."
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