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Scottish network is given its share.

Byline: GRAHAM TIBBETTS

SCOTLAND'S sagging rail network was handed its share of the multi billion pound lifeline yesterday.

The Government cash will fund a host of improvements to trains, tracks and stations.

Scots transport minister Wendy Alexander hailed the blueprint as the first expansion for the industry in half a century.

The ambitious scheme, drawn up by the Strategic Rail Authority over 18 months, includes:

lA pounds 400million redevelopment of Edinburgh's Waverley Station.

lAN upgrade for both East and West coast main lines.

lTHREE new lines in Edinburgh, Lanarkshire and Stirlingshire.

lSIX new stations and facelifts for 140 existing ones.

l RAIL links to both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports.

All projects have been put on a priority scale, which means most - including the Glasgow airport rail link - may not be completed until the end of the decade.

Yesterday's announcement came as Scotrail bosses held peace talks with union chiefs, representing guards who have taken industrial action in a bid to have their hours cut.

The SRA plan effectively commits the Government to a host of improvement works currently in the pipeline.

The private sector is being asked to match the cash pledge.

The jewel in the crown of the Scottish blueprint is Waverley, which its Railtrack owners want to turn into "one of the best in Europe".

Although pounds 40million has already been spent on a new concourse, roof repairs and drainage work, 10 times that will be spent during a four-year overhaul.

This will see the number of platforms increased from 14 to 22 to boost capacity by 50 per cent, while the roof will be raised two metres to accommodate a floor of shops.

Backing the document, Alexander said: "The SRA's Strategic Plan is good news for Scottish rail users.

"It recognises enough is enough - and is the start of planning for a railway fit for the 21st century."

A Scotrail spokesman said: "We welcome the endorsement by the Prime Minister of the need for very significant investment in the railways."

The Rail Passengers' Committee for Scotland said it was behind the announcement.

Deputy secretary Robert Samson added: "Hopefully this addresses in a small way the chronic under-investment in the railways."

But critics of yesterday's aid package said it was old news.

Ken Sutherland, of the Railway Development Society (Scotland) said: "The plans are weak and Scotland has been left out again with the bulk of investment made in England."

The SNP's transport spokesman, Kenny MacAskill, said: "There is almost nothing in this plan for Scotland in the short or medium term.

"The majority of the money will be spent in England. There will be little to benefit Scots."
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 15, 2002
Words:441
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