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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 18:31 GMT
Central rail link backed by MSPs
Track work - Pic: Network Rail
Network Rail expressed delight at the decision by MSPs
MSPs have supported proposals for a major project to reopen the railway line between Airdrie to Bathgate.

The 300m scheme will include an upgrade of the links between North Lanarkshire and West Lothian and the construction of two stations by 2010.

There has been cross-party support for the plans, with an ambition to draw more businesses to the central belt.

The line, which would carry four services an hour between Edinburgh and Glasgow, has been closed for 50 years.

Phil Gallie, convener of the Airdrie-Bathgate Railway Bill Committee, said the link would create more than 1,500 new jobs and ease congestion in both cities by offering an alternative to the M8.

"Physically this is a railway for the communities of the Airdrie/Bathgate railway corridor but its benefits go far beyond those areas," the South of Scotland MSP said.

The plans outlined in the Airdrie-Bathgate Railway and Linked Improvements Bill include new stations at Armadale and Caldercruix, relocated stations at Bathgate and Drumgelloch and upgraded stations at Livingston North, Uphall and Airdrie.

Having passed the preliminary stage, the bill will be considered again in January.

The more people we can get on the trains the better for the congestion on the M8
David Davidson MSP
Tory transport spokesman

Mr Gallie insisted that accessibility to stations by cycle path and bus would be essential.

However, he said more must be done to ensure integrated bus services and expressed doubt that sufficient funding had been earmarked to help.

Transport Minister Tavish Scott gave the Scottish Executive's backing to the plans.

He said it was a core part of the transport infrastructure plan and fitted in with the aim of "promoting sustainable economic growth".

The Scottish economy would benefit by 679m, at a rate of 1.81 for every 1 spent from the line, the minister claimed.

Mr Scott gave assurances that the executive would help ensure the rail line would be linked with local bus services.

Additional stations

SNP transport spokesman Fergus Ewing said his party backed the proposed new line.

However, he said as trains on the new route would take longer than the existing Glasgow to Edinburgh service, the line would primarily serve people in the West Lothian and North Lanarkshire areas.

He said the SNP would commit funds to building a station at Blackridge in West Lothian.

David Davidson, Conservative transport spokesman, also urged ministers to consider building additional stations at both Blackridge and Plains in North Lanarkshire.

"The more people we can get on the trains the better for the congestion on the M8," he said.

Green MSP Robin Harper said little had been done so far to accommodate those who would wish to walk and cycle to stations.

Ron McAulay, Network Rail's director for Scotland, said: "It is great news that today's debate went so well and that MSPs across the board are in favour of the bill proceeding to the next stage.

"This means the Airdrie-Bathgate proposals have passed another significant milestone and that Network Rail, as promoter of the bill, is one step closer to delivering the new railway."


SEE ALSO
Focus on potential rail benefits
14 Nov 06 |  Glasgow and West
Transport scrutiny rethink urged
14 Nov 06 |  Scotland
'Progress' on east-west rail plan
20 Sep 06 |  Edinburgh and East

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