Thursday, 15 March 2012

Trainenomics

My love affair with the train is long running and consistent. It would be easy to blame the several people involved in keeping that flame going, but really the best response is that I keep that flame going for it is a sensible one.* At university, some labelled me the Anti-Beeching: it is a moniker I am proud of. Short term gains which breed long term issues is a politic stance which should all should be dissuaded from.

*(Mere hours after Jim Steel points out how much he hates comma conjuctions that I go and use one in my second sentence here!)

Years ago we saw the great plans for subway extension in Glasgow, set up for consultation at Glasgow University. I graduated in 2009, and nay a word of it in the near decade since those plans. Even the lesser but worthy mirror track for the Commonwealth games has seen no light of day. So I took to thinking, if I were Minister without Portfolio for Trains (to use a hypothetical job description) how I would go about fixing the situation.

The current set up works well as a city centre set up. What I came up with originally was four lines that branched off this main one, ala how the London Underground works. The four main stations which would be used for these branch lines would be: Govan, Partick, Bridge Street and Buchanan Street. They are at set points which make them easier for branching off - although, as will be seen in the Partick proposal, the jumping off point could as easily be Kelvinbridge if that would come off easier at planning stage.

So without further ado, some extensions. Not even plans; mere wishful thinking.

Buchanan Street Line.

Stops
1 Buchanan Street
2. Sighthill Park
3 Old Balarnock
4 Robroyston
5 Millerston
6 Craigend
7 Easterhouse
8 Ballieston
9 Edinburgh Road/Forge/Parkhead
10 Foxley
11 Braidfauld
12 Dunn Street
13 Peoples Palace
14 Tollbooth

Up to Sighthill, along through to Millerston (with playing grounds and Hogganfield Loch), down towards deprived Easterhouse and Ballieston before heading back to town via The Peoples Palace and the Tron Theatre.

Bridge Street Line

Stops
1 Bridge Street
2 Gorbals Laurieston
3 Gorbals Ballatar Street
4 Cambuslang
5 Scotcart Centre
6 Halfway
7 Silverburn
8 Cathkin
9 Ardencraig Road
10 Castlemilk
11 Linn Park
12 Newlands
13 Queens Park
14 Dumbreck
15 Eglinton Toll

A highly important line, linking the run down Castlemilk to the city centre in these days of bus cuts. Some places (esp Newlands) have elderly populations away from a good chunk of public transport too.

Govan Line

Stops
1 Linthouse
2 Southern General
3 North Cardonald
4 Dean Park
5 Gallowhill
6 Glasgow Airport
7 Woodside
8 Foxbar
9 Dykebar Hospital
10 Barrhead Glasgow Road
11 Hurlet
12 Pollok
13 Belahouston Park
14 Helen Street

Linking Govan (which we forever hear is in the midst of a great regeneration) with Paisley, Barrhead and Pollok within the same area. If the Southern is to become the biggest hospital in the South of Glasgow, it needs more transport links than a few half hourly bus services which seem temperamental as to if they wish to turn up! Just now it is trust the buses or taxis, neither of which is a long term solution. So a rail link is required. Further links between the four named areas are also required as the number of transport links does not currently equate to the movement of labour between the four.

Pollok especially I single out here. The nearest stations to Pollok, one of the busier suburbs of Glasgow, is Crookston nearer Cardonald, or a walk down to Nitshill, and for safetys sakes, I don't think we should be encouraging late night walks from Nitshill to Pollok on many. It is inconceivable to me that a deprived area such as this, with such a high rate of old folk, should be reliantly solely on buses and their own means to get from area to area.

Partick Line

Stops
1 Partick
2 Botanic Gardens
3 Firhill
4 Kelvindale
5 Gartnavel
6 Temple
7 Baldwin Avenue
8 Drumchapel
9 Duntocher
10 Whitecrook
11 Knightswood Golf
12 Jordanhill
13 Victoria Park
14 Whiteinch

It was a key point for me to link up the hospitals in this way. Gartnavel is a fundamental sound hospital, and needs better access from the city than the perils of Great Western Road not having something broken.

The four lines link deprived areas and areas of inconvenience together, as well as great areas of public interest that are hard to get to, even for those with cars.

But what of the expense? I agree such plans would be expensive in the long run, but their use would outgrow their short term issues. Not just through job creation (estimated 4000 odd, before thinking of the trains themselves), not just through linking areas left for dead to the city centre and vice versa. When Haggs Castle was shut, the women working at it on its last day muttered how this wouldn't have happened "if we'd have a transport link".

This would just be the start. I'd propose further lines from Drumchapel, Pollok, Castlemilk and Easterhouse. Not only linking further afield communities to the Second City's centre within minutes travel, but also increasing the jobs and opportunities in these run down areas.

If we take Langside railway station for example, I advise no one to go to it after dark. A wired mesh across industrial ground leads 100 yards to an unlit tunnel which takes you to ground level, and there is no safety whatsoever between stepping off the train and getting to the street. The station is unmanned. I've just described the situation of many of the needed stations across Glasgow left to waste. It needs three staff in the ticket office, lights, and security checking the route from platform to street: at a guess, another four staff. Factor in three shifts a day, and we're talking around sixty jobs to one station, and that's one already in use.

The trains of Glasgow already provide veins throughout our city, with which we can boost the economies heart. To leave that tool to rot is to do the city, and it's peoples, a great injustice.

To misquote that great church sign once seen on London Road: "Don't let stress kill you. Let the Church help":

Let Glasgow flourish. Let the trains help.