The North-South Railway Divide: Rail revolution needed to cut journey times going north

Transform Scotland has today revealed research highlighting huge disparities in rail journey times north and south of the Central Belt.

‘The North-South Railway Divide’, published as part of the Inter-City Express campaign, compares journey times from the Central Belt to Inverness, Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen, to journeys heading south of the Border. The research found significant differences in journey times: Aberdeen is just 130 miles north from Edinburgh and yet the journey time is the same as that to York — some 205 miles to the south. For Inverness, 175 miles north of Edinburgh, the contrast is even more striking: by opting to travel south, one could instead be in the West Midlands almost 300 miles south of Edinburgh in the same time that it takes to go north to Inverness.

Similarly, journey times between Edinburgh-Carlisle are faster than between Edinburgh-Perth, despite Carlisle being around double the distance from Edinburgh than Perth. Journey times between Edinburgh-Perth are around 75 minutes, compared to around 45 minutes by car.


The Inter-City Express (ICE) campaign calls for faster rail connections between Scotland’s seven cities to strengthen connections, boost economic growth and provide a competitive sustainable alternative to travel by road. The ICE campaign proposes:

  • Reinstating the direct rail line between Perth and Edinburgh
  • Dualling and electrifying the Highland Main Line
  • Substantial upgrades to connect Aberdeen to the Central Belt
  • Create an inter-city rail hub at Perth Station

Paul Tetlaw, Rail Campaigner at Transform Scotland, said:

If the Scottish Government is to achieve its stated ambition of “making rail travel between the cities quicker than by car” then substantial improvements are urgently needed on the rail routes to the north. Despite some improvements, these routes are currently not fit for purpose and certainly do not represent an inter-city rail network fit for the 21st century.

” Successive Scottish Governments have focused capital expenditure on roads, with £3bn being committed for dualling the A9 and a further £3bn for dualling the A96 in recent years. Combined with a failure to adequately invest in rail infrastructure north of the Central Belt, this means that rail is in many cases not time-competitive with travel by car. There needs to be a rebalancing of capital expenditure from road to rail in order to deliver a competitive and reliable rail network which works for commuters and tourists alike.”

To read the briefing, please see here.

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