Consultants AECOM reported in July on a South West Scotland transport study and included in the recommendations a detailed study for re-opening Beattock Station on the West Coast Main Line. Consultants Peter Brett Associates reported on the STAG2 for re-opening Beattock Station. These studies are costly and mainly paid for by cash-strapped local councils although the Beattock Action Group have made a significant contribution from local folk & business through fund raising. The Original agenda for us was to take advantage of the Scottish Stations Fund Announced in 2012 (£478 million for Scotland £30 million for South Scotland). Hence our concentration on re-opening the station.
The STAG studies the transport problem and not a station re-opening. Various bus services and cycling were considered. In the consultation 95% of respondents wanted a railway station and were not interested the STAG which they considered a waste of public money and deliberately negative. The consultants were fair in their consideration of economy, social inclusion and environment but it came down to cost, predicted use and fare income. The construction cost was estimated at £14 million made more expensive by the new electrical clearance regulations and longer platforms for inter-city trains even though these operators had no intention of serving the station. A local service may be possible in the long term. The construction would be feasible and a timetable just possible but challenging.
The relatively low catchment population gave an estimated usage from the station of just over 12,000 per annum but half of these would have been extracted from Lockerbie Station some 15 miles away and resulting in a very poor Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR).
Railfuture Scotland have previously indicated a much higher usage in their appraisal of the Railfuture-Scotland-Top-50-Stations of 86000 per annum (see below graphic and PDF). Also travelling north from Dumfries to central belt enhanced by Park & Ride at Beattock. 6 acres next to the Station Yard owned by Community Council (CC) represents significant savings. A Service Level Agreement with the CC for maintenance and development would be arranged. (reducing costs re a different location for the station at Beattock and offsetting the difficulties negative experienced by commuters’ parking in Lockerbie)
There were negatives such as other train users being delayed by the additional stop. (BUT Schedulers in the industry Schedule trains to suit the logistic needs and rural line speeds and lead times give more opportunities to be creative). The consultants explained that this applied to almost all rural stations and that inclusion and environment were the deciding factors. We certainly question the passenger demand and extraction figures. Additionally, the consultants considered at length HS2 and its effect in Scotland with possible quadrupling of the main line.
The report will go to the SW Scotland Regional Transport Partnership (SWestrans) meeting on Friday 20th September 2019.
The use of the Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) is what needs to be challenged in some way as public services will always run at a loss and need to be subsidised. How many bus services run almost empty for 90% of their time yet BCR is not a consideration for not providing any service.
Our objective is for equality of access to all public transport and we are missing option of access to community rail services. The original agenda from Government was the station reopening fund and as the survey points out 95% of ‘wants’ are for a Station for their community. The 300% increase is build costs are not going to lessen the arguments and the green agenda seems to be taking a backseat as an ecological benefit – less Co2.
Martin Brown Chairman – Beattock Station Action Group