Fears for Carrick rail service voiced

THE RAILWAY network between Girvan and Stranraer will continue to suffer as a result of Scottish government inaction, despite measures to cap costs, says a SAYLSA manager.

Last week it was announced that peak fares will be capped relative to inflation in January 2014 and 2015, and on Monday it emerged the Scottish government would peg planned increases on off-peak rail fares from 2016 at one per cent below inflation.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said keeping rail fares down would ease financial pressure on individuals and families as well as encouraging the use of sustainable transport.

But Richard Carr, development manager of the Carrick community rail partnership SAYLSA, said fares are not the primary problem facing the Girvan-Stranraer rail link.

“The problem with the Stran­raer line isn’t so much fares – though they are an issue to Stranraer. It is the service level,” he said.

“There is ongoing frustration, particularly in Stranraer, that the Scottish government appears 
to be following a policy of delib­erately running the Stranraer line down by failing totally to provide a service that meets the marketplace, and as a consequence effectively doubling the passenger subsidy south of Girvan.”

Mr Carr said the service was missing out on large numbers of potential rail users travelling via ferry connection to Northern Ireland – who are currently transported by coach from Ayr station to the ferry terminal at Loch Ryan.

He confirmed SAYLSA is seeking to work in partnership with both Strathclyde Partnership for Transport and Dumfries and Galloway’s Swestrans, and has submitted a revised timetable which would provide for an hourly service between Ayr and Girvan, a two-hourly service from Kilmarnock to Stranraer, and a four-hourly service from Glasgow to Stranraer that would meet the Stena ferry service to Belfast.

“If the present Scottish gov­ernment wishes to deliver a railway for Scotland it must stop deceiving the public of Carrick and neighbouring Wigtownshire and provide what people want at an effective cost,” Mr Carr said.

“Without the creativity we have suggested the future of the railway south of Girvan looks very bleak indeed, and its demise would be a tragedy for south-west Scotland.”