AN INDEPENDENT report released last week has called for an electrified rail line between Ayr and Girvan to improve journey times between the two towns.
And the benefits of an electrified line would also be felt in journeys to Glasgow, as well as providing rail service operators big savings.
The report, the Stranraer to Ayr Rail Regeneration Study (STARRS), says it would cost around £35 million to make the improvements to the line.
It also argues that Glasgow would become easily commutable from Girvan and Maybole, there could be a growth potential for housing in Girvan, Maybole and south east Ayr as a result of improved rail services and a reduction on road traffic on the A77 including congestion hotspots such as Maybole.
Report author, Alan Wood, said the report had been favourably received by politicians and business leaders and if the proposals get the go ahead it will be the biggest investment that South Ayrshire has seen for decades.
He explained: “The STARRS acknowledges that the Ayr/Girvan/Stranraer line will not have a secure future without investment and efficiency savings.
“The challenge facing the route is that it must attract more customers whilst reducing costs if it is to survive in difficult economic times. At present, the entire line between Girvan and Stranraer is operationally inefficient, lightly used relative to capacity, and is at risk of curtailment due to high running costs and low passenger numbers.”
The main recommendation of STARRS is that Girvan should be fully integrated into the Ayrshire electric network. Once this is achieved, a single Class 380 train from the existing fleet will be the sole requirement to operate an hourly service in each direction.
Mr Wood continued: “The main recommendation of this report is that the route requires strategic investment, aimed at reducing operational costs and providing a more attractive rail service for users.
“Electrification from Ayr to Girvan, at a cost of around £35m, along with other route improvements would generate route efficiencies of around £700,000 per annum. Projected line revenue growth of £1.7m p/a is anticipated as a result of improved services.
“Therefore, the net effect of the proposals made by STARRS would improve the line’s financial performance by £2.4m annually - not including significantly increased revenues from Ayr, Prestwick, Troon and Irvine which would all be served by limited stop/express services.”
Carrick MSP Adam Ingram backed the paper and confirmed he would push for a feasibility study to begin into the report.
He said: “We need strategic investment in the route to provide a more attractive and practical rail service for users. A recent independent study of the Ayr to Stranraer line concludes that electrification of the Ayr to Girvan section would address both of these issues and I will be putting this case to the Transport Minister and Transport Scotland. I hope to persuade them to commission a feasibility study as a first step in the process.”
The group also proposes that all electrified services to Girvan should serve a brand new station south of Ayr.
Mr Wood said: “STARRS proposes that all Girvan to Glasgow trains should serve the new South East Ayr station. Along with the station’s hourly service to Ayr/Glasgow, this would provide a half hourly service northbound and an hourly frequency to Maybole/Girvan.
“Longer term projections are that passenger numbers at this station could increase to over 300,000 p/a in just a few years. This being as a result of its prime location; close to a major hospital, business park and main roads.
The report also recognises the loss of ferry services from Stranraer.
Mr Wood added: “The south west of Scotland railway needs strategic investment if it is to have a long term future. As the growth in passenger usage on other reopened rail routes illustrates, rail services can be improved through strategic investment, whilst operating costs are reduced.
“Regenerating this railway is no longer an option - it’s a necessity.”