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MSP calls for improvements to both trains and rail network in Highlands

By Scott Maclennan

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Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick has called for due attention to be paid to the north in the process of improving rail services across Scotland.

Ms Roddick hailed the Scottish Government’s plans to take ScotRail into public ownership, saying it “provides us with a massive opportunity to get things right”.

But she expressed her disappointment at the ongoing service reductions across the Highlands as well as the lack of infrastructure investment.

The MSP wants to see high-speed trains introduced after both the government and Scotrail described the current trains as “not suited for intercity travel.”

She also joined the call of the Friends of the Far North Line that the Highland Main Line needs to be dualled as it is a vital intercity link between Inverness and the Central Belt.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, she said: “I find it bizarre that ScotRail is using current passenger numbers to justify service reductions.

“We cannot use passenger numbers as any kind of basis for decision making at a time when people have been actively told not to use the train. We should be looking to the future and using the opportunity of service changes to encourage more users.

“Taking ScotRail into public ownership next year is a vital first step in building a public transport system fit for the 21st Century. It is crucial that Highland communities are not forgotten in building that system.

“The reality is that for many people across the Highlands and Islands going car free remains impossible, and that will continue until we can offer them reliable and accessible railway services.”

ScotRail has announced a timetables shake-up in response to passenger levels following Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic; revisions include Highland services

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