Tories vow to reverse Beeching cuts to reopen lost railway lines

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said his party’s infrastructure plans would create ‘tens of thousands of jobs’.

Tories vow to reverse Beeching cuts to reopen lost railway lines PA Wire
Tory leader Douglas Ross has unveiled his party’s infrastructure plan.

Communities would be able to register interest in the reopening of railway stations under Scottish Conservative proposals, leader Douglas Ross has said.

The party has unveiled its infrastructure plans ahead of the election on May 6, with promises to create “tens of thousands of jobs” by upgrading Scotland’s road and rail network, investing in green energy to make Scotland a “renewable powerhouse”, and rolling out full fibre broadband by 2027.

Part of the changes Ross proposes would see a reverse of the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, so called because of a report written by British Railways chairman Dr Richard Beeching which resulted in line closures.

The Tory infrastructure plan, unveiled on Friday, said: “We would review closed rail lines and stations and reopen those which would support local growth.

“Many iconic railways were shut down during the Beeching cuts of the 1960s – we would review which should be reopened.

“We would also take forward plans to reopen the line between Perth and Edinburgh.”

When asked by journalists what other lines could be reopened, the Tory leader pointed to the Buchan railway station in the north east and its line running to Formartine.

He added: “We’d look to take notes of interest from around the country where people think there is an opportunity for a station to be reopened, a line to be reopened, and that’s why we said we would look to get feedback from communities where they feel there are opportunities to do that.”

The Tories also propose a smart travel card that would work on public transport across Scotland, akin to an Oyster Card in London.

Ross could not say how long it would take to implement such a scheme or the cost, but added the party would seek to learn lessons from other such systems when being set up.

He said: “We would learn from the issues that you rightly highlighted with the Oyster Card and other developments that have seen the rollout of similar cards in other parts of the country, so it’s right that we look at what went wrong there and seek to address that going forward.

“But it is also right for us to seek to make it as easy as possible for people to use public transport, and that’s what we’re aiming to do.

“In terms of the costings, that will all be included in the manifesto on Monday, I look forward to all the questions I’ll be getting on costings on Monday.”

Ross was also asked for a more specific number of jobs that would be created under the infrastructure plans, and how much the proposals would cost.

He said: “A number of the projects are already budgeted for but there have been serious delays, for example with the dualling of the A9 and the A96, but again on Monday you will see a costed manifesto on the commitments that we are putting forward.

“In terms of jobs, it is more difficult to put a specific number on that, but given the priority we’re putting on infrastructure and building up over the next parliament after the last 12 months that we’ve been through, I think it would be absolutely fair to say there would absolutely be tens of thousands of additional jobs going forward across Scotland.”