Transport in Scotland

Transport in Scotland

The transport system in Scotland is generally well-developed. The Scottish Parliament has control over most elements of transport policy within Scotland and the Scottish Government's Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department is responsible for the Scottish transport network with Transport Scotland being the Executive Agency that is accountable to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth. cite web|url= |title=Scottish Cabinet |accessdate=2007-05-26 |work=Scottish Executive ]


Scotland has an extensive railway network using cross country links across the country, and connections to England; local commuter links to the major cities; and freight. Only 29% of the rail network in Scotland (by routes miles) is electrified, as opposed to 40% across Great Britain as a whole. This results in many trains being run on diesel fuel rather than by overhead electricity.

The railway network is owned by Network Rail, the non-profit organisation responsible for all of the UK's railway infrastructure. Rail services are provided under franchises awarded by the government. The current holder of the Scottish franchise is First ScotRail, a division of Aberdeen-based FirstGroup plc. [ First ScotRail: About us] ] Intercity services are also operated by CrossCountry, National Express East Coast and Virgin Trains. [ National Rail: Companies and coverage guide] ]

The UK government, subsequent to the Scotland Act, 1998, devolved power for the regulation of railways in Scotland to the Scottish Government. [ Scottish Government: About] ] On January 1, 2006, a new agency Transport Scotland was created that would oversee the regulation of railways in Scotland, and administer major rail projects. [ Transport in Scotland: About us] ] The Scottish Executive, in its time, committed itself to the expansion of the railway network in Scotland, with planned links to the main Scottish airports, and reopening of disused lines in Clackmannanshire and the Scottish Borders.

Cross border services

The main cross border services in Scotland are:

* The West Coast Main Line — operated by Virgin Trains
** Services from Edinburgh "Waverley", Glasgow ("Central") and Motherwell to Carlisle, Preston, Wigan, Warrington, Crewe, Rugby and London ("Euston")
* East Coast Main Line — operated by National Express East Coast
**Services from Glasgow ("Central"), Motherwell, Edinburgh "Waverley", North Berwick and Dunbar to Berwick Upon Tweed , Newcastle, Durham, Doncaster, York, Peterborough and London ("Kings Cross")cite web|url=|title=National Express awarded contract for growth on InterCity East Coast|publisher=Department for Transport]
** Services from Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth and Stirling to Berwick Upon Tweed , Newcastle, Durham, Doncaster, York, Peterborough and London ("Kings Cross")
* Cross Country Route — operated by CrossCountry
** Services from Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow ("Central"), Motherwell, Edinburgh ("Waverley") to Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Bristol and the South West.
* Overnight sleeper services — operated by First ScotRail
** Services from Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Fort William, Glasgow and Edinburgh to London

cottish services

Within Scotland, all services are operated by First ScotRail on behalf of Transport Scotland. Until autumn 2005, services within the former Strathclyde Regional Council area were provided by First ScotRail on behalf of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport.

Recent expansion of the rail network in Scotland has seen the addition of a new line from Hamilton to Larkhall. Other new lines planned include links to Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports; re-opening of the line between Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders; and re-opening of the line between Stirling, Alloa and Kincardine. [ [ Journey Check] ]

The table below shows all the major railway lines in Scotland.


The first "proper" railway in Scotland was the Garnkirk and Glasgow, opened in 1831. The first inter-city railway was the Edinburgh and Glasgow, opened in 1842. By 1850 Scotland's major cities were linked to each other and to the English rail network. The 2nd half of the 19th century saw a rapid expansion and by 1900 virtually every town of more than 2,000 population on the Scottish mainland had a railway station. At the same time trains became more comfortable, faster and more frequent whilst the cost of travel declined relative to wages. Nevertheless there were probablynever more than 100 million or so journeys made per year within Scotland, little more than 20 per head of population, illustrating how most peoplehad little need, financial means or desire to travel long distances. Railways did, though, play an important part in moving freight, especially heavy loads such as coal, iron and steel, and played a vital role in the 1st World War.

After World War 1 the independent Scottish companies were merged into the London Midland and Scottish and London and North Eastern companies. A Scottish company had been considered, but rejected as being probably not financially viable. Since the 1920s and 30s saw a decline in passenger and freight business, this was probably a correct judgement. At this time some lesser-used lines were closed to passenger traffic. After World War 2 the railways were nationalised. Very quickly the Scottish Region moved into a position where revenue was not covering operating expenses and after 1951 closures resumed. The pace of such closures accelerated after the Beeching Report of 1963 though some of the recommended closures did not take place after Ministers of Transport refused consent on grounds of hardship, a concept which was open to wide interpretation. Freight services were also withdrawn from the majority of stations and concentrated on larger depots and private sidings. At the same time steam traction was replaced by diesel, with most of the Glasgow suburban and commuter network being electrified, in addition to both of the main lines to England. This allowed acceleration of Anglo-Scottish services, with the Edinburgh-London service down from 7-8 hours in the 1950s to 4-5 hours today. However the reduction in the cost of air travel has seen the market share of rail in the Edinburgh/Glasgow to London route down considerably in recent years, as even with the time taken to travel to airports and check in, rail is unable to compete on journey time (unlike on routes such as London to Manchester).

The closure programme slowed down after the Transport Act of 1968 made it possible for the government to directly subsidise loss-making lines and the last major closure was the direct Edinburgh-Perth line in 1970. Since then a number of lines have been re-opened, and stations opened on existing lines. The railways were privatised in 1995 with Scottish railways forming a separate franchise. Services across the border are divided between England-based franchises, though First ScotRail operates the sleeper services to London.

Rapid transit

The Glasgow Subway is the only underground system in Scotland. It is owned and operated by the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport.

Trams and Light Rail

There are no tram systems currently in operation in Scotland, although Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen formerly had extensive networks. A proposal for an Edinburgh Tram Network has received Royal Assent and is planned to enter operation in 2011. Glasgow also has plans for a light rail network in the future, however it is likely that it will open first as the 'Clyde Fastlink' guided bus system, with conversion to tram at a later date.


Scotland has an extensive road network throughout the country. The motorway network is concentrated in the Central belt, with dual-carriageways (A roads) connecting the rest of the country.

The main routes in Scotland are:

*The M8 motorway between Renfrewshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh
*The M74 motorway between Glasgow and Carlisle, England
*The M9 motorway between Edinburgh and Stirling
*The M90 motorway/A90 road between Edinburgh, Fife, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Fraserburgh
*The M80 motorway between Glasgow and Stirling
*The M77 motorway/A77 road between Glasgow and Kilmarnock, Ayr and Stranraer
*The A1 road between Edinburgh and London
*The A9 road between Stirling and Scrabster, connecting to the Northlink Ferries ferry to Stromness, Orkney

Within the large cities, roads become congested in peak hours. The M8 motorway becomes havily congested in peak hours, especially around Glasgow where it travels through the heart of the city. The main congestion hotposts are in Glasgow City Centre around the Kingston Bridge where a large amount of traffic leaves and enter the road. Also further down the road traffic joining at Hillington Estate and Braehead Shopping Centre near Glasgow Airport can cause hold-ups. Traffic is also extremely heavy between Glasgow and Edinburgh at all times, however rarely comes to a standstill.

Road Construction

An extension to the M9 spur to link with the A90 at the Forth Bridge recently opened, whilst a new Kincardine Bridge across the Forth is being constructed. A controversial extension to the M74 motorway through the southside of Glasgow is also due for completion by 2011. The road, first proposed in the 1960s, was due to be open in 2008 however legal action against the road was brought by environmental group Friends of the Earth. The action unltimately failed, however the motorway has wide spread opposion after ministers over-ruled the Local Public Inquiry held into the project which recommended that the road not be built, as it would be unable to substantially reduce congestion and would lead to more vehicles and pollution in the area. The Scottish Ministers voted for the road, believing that it will regenerate the inner city of Glasgow's Southside and bring economic benefits to Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and the Southside of Glasgow. Construction cost is estimated at £575 million, and it is Scotland's biggest roads project, and the first motorway to be built in a British urban area for decades.


Scotland is covered by a large bus network throughout many towns, cities and rural areas. It is estimated that 95% of the population live within 5 minutes walk of a bus stop. National and international buses often operate out of main bus stations in the cities, such as Glasgow (Buchanan Street) and Edinburgh (St Andrew Square).

Scottish Citylink and Megabus are the two principal long distance coach operators within Scotland, and currently operating together as a joint venture, however the deal is being monitored by the competition commission to ensure that it doesn't unfairly damage long distance bus travel in Scotland. National Express provide coach links with cities in England and Wales, as well as local buses in Dundee and Angus under the Travel Dundee and Travel Wishart brand names.

First Group and Stagecoach Group are two large public transport companies which are based in Scotland at Aberdeen and Perth respectively, and both operate a number of local and regional services.

Arriva is the only other public transport giant that serves Scotland with its Arriva Scotland West subsidiary, serving Glasgow and Renfrewshire.

Numerous local independent operators also run bus services throughout Scotland as well as Lothian Buses, Edinburgh's largest bus operator and Scotland's last council run bus company.

Scotland's bus network, like that of Great Britain outside London, is deregulated following an act of UK Parliament in 1986. This broke up the former national and city bus companies, formerly run by the local authorities since the 1930s, into private companies. The act also allowed buses to be operated by private companies and individuals for profit, provided they met the financial, background and maintenance requirements to qualify for a license, set down by VOSA who administrate the system. A Public Service Vehicle License is then granted to allow a specified number of vehicles to be operated. Using this license firms can then register their routes with the Local Traffic Commissioner for the area, in this case Scotland, indicating the exact route to be operated as well as the times and dates their buses will run. No requirements are set as to when and what routes buses can run, their age and what fares can be charged-this is decided by companies, often by the profitability of the route. Currently only one bus company, Lothian Buses in Edinburgh, remains under ownership and control of local councils in Lothian and Edinburgh.

In recent years, public resentment has been growing into the system under which bus travel is operated in Scotland. Since 1986, passenger numbers have steadily declined, boosted only in recent years by introduction of free bus travel throughout Scotland for persons over 60 funded by the government. At the same time bus drivers wages have remained consistent, however fares have increased, often above the rate of inflation, whilst vehicle conditions, driving and operating standards as well as routes and service levels have often declined. Indeed where routes are not profitable and thus unattractive to companies, a subsidy from local government is required to ensure an operator will provide the service. It is common to see a number of companies buses operating close together, commonly with only a handful of passengers each, competing for custom over the same highly profitable, high frequency routes in Cities and Towns during the daytime-increasing pollution and traffic congestion levels in urban areas. However few run past 6pm where passenger levels and profit margins decrease. The term 'bus war' was coined after a number of fierce competition battles between rival operators in the Paisley, Inverclyde, Ayrshire, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh areas, which saw rival operators often running buses minutes ahead of rivals and at times performing dangerous manoeuvres to stay ahead of competition. Violence and intimidation between rival operators is rare but not unheard of. First Glasgow, the largest bus operator in Glasgow and part of the First bus group, provoked public outcry when they cut back a number of services in Glasgow at night and weekends during 2006, as well as increasing the cost of fares within weeks of their last fare increase. This sparked angry protests from members of the public who complained they were being used for profit and that they were being 'cut-off' from facilities by having no public transport for parts of the evening. Whilst some routes were subsidised to ensure services remained running a campaign was launched by Glasgow's Evening Times newspaper to help improve public transport in the city. As a result of the growing resentment into the system, the Scottish Executive has promised to look into the way the system is operated although it is expected to stop short of recommending re-regulation.

From 2015 all buses in Scotland will have to be disabled accessible in order to meet the Disability Discrimination Act. This act has caused a great deal of resentment in the bus industry as it will require a large amount of money to be spent modifying or buying new buses that comply with the act, for what is perceived to be, little benefit. It also sees a number of perfectly serviceable buses taken off the road and made worthless before the end of their natural life. In Scotland there are a number of situations where currently no suitable buses are manufactured that could operate due the hilly and uneven road conditions which damage disabled accessible vehicles. The Isle of Arran is one example, where extensive road improvements will be required before disabled accessible buses can be operated extensively on the Island.



As Scotland is made up of several hundred islands, water has always been an important transport route for passengers and freight, particularly in the remote communities of the Hebrides.

There are several ferry companies operating in Scotland including:
* Caledonian MacBrayne, a publicly owned ferry company with routes linking the mainland to all the major islands of the West Coast
* Northlink Ferries is a state backed company that serves the Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands, linking them with Aberdeen and Scrabster
* Pentland Ferries, car and passenger ferries from Gills Bay (Scottish Mainland) to St. Margaret's Hope (Orkney).
* Smyril Line operate a weekly ferry service to from Lerwick (Shetland Islands) to Bergen in Norway, Tórshavn on the Faroe Islands, and Seyðisfjörður in Iceland
* Stena Line and P&O provide links to Northern Ireland from Stranraer and Troon
* Superfast Ferries operates between Rosyth, Fife and Zeebrugge, Belgium
* Western Ferries (Clyde) Ltd, a private company, based in Dunoon, Argyll, operates on the River Clyde, providing a frequent link between Dunoon and Gourock in competition with Caledonian MacBrayne.

The Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, formerly Strathclyde Passenger Transport, the only regional passenger executive in Scotland also subsidises and operates ferries on the Clyde including the Kilcreggan Ferry and the Renfrew Ferry.

The ferry to Gothenburg, Sweden, from "Newcastle" (actually North Shields) in northern England (currently run by the Danish company DFDS Seaways), ceased at the end of October 2006. [ [ "DFDS scraps Newcastle-Gothenburg line"] , The Local, 7 September 2006: "Danish shipping company DFDS Seaways is to scrap the only passenger ferry route between Sweden and Britain, with the axing of the Gothenburg-Newcastle route at the end of October."] This service was a key route for Scottish tourist traffic from Sweden and Norway. The company cited high fuel prices and new competition from low-cost air services, especially Ryanair (which now flies to Glasgow Prestwick and London Stansted from Gothenburg City Airport), as being the cause. DFDS Seaways' sister company, DFDS Tor Line, will continue to run scheduled freight ships between Gothenburg and several English ports, including Newcastle, and these have limited capacity for passengers, but not private vehicles. The Newcastle-Kristiansand, Norway, route has however recently been cancelled.


"See also: Canals in Scotland"

Scotland never had an extensive canal network. The Forth and Clyde Canal, Union Canal and the Caledonian Canal were some of the most important, but went into decline after the growth of the railways. Like in the rest of the UK, they are now being reopened and restored primarily for leisure use.

Air transport

Scotland has four international airports with scheduled services, operating to Europe, North America and Asia, as well as the rest of the UK.

* Edinburgh Airport, which became Scotland's busiest airport in July 2007, serves many European business destinations including Paris, Frankfurt, Zürich, Milan, Brussels and Copenhagen. However its long haul network is starting to grow with the addition of a daily flight service to Newark (for New York City; twice daily in summer) and since May 2008 a daily link to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
* Glasgow International Airport operates a large number of European charter flights and a handful of long haul international routes to United States, Canada and Dubai. Loganair has its hub here, with services to the Highland and Islands, and Northern Ireland.
* Aberdeen Airport operates many domestic and international flights for the people in the north of Scotland, including most UK airports, along with international scheduled destinations such as Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Oslo, Dublin, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Cyprus, Majorca and Málaga. Many chartered services are also offered.
* Glasgow Prestwick International Airport is Glasgow's s second airport, located 29 miles from the city centre in Ayrshire. It serves as the Scottish hub of low cost airline, Ryanair with services to the Republic of Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Lithuania, Scandinavia and Latvia. Wizz Air provides services to Poland; and Air Arann provides a service to Donegal.

These 4 airports now serve 107 international destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. [Scotsman 27 March 2007- Special Report "Business Class]

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited operate ten small airports across the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, which are primarily used for short distance, public service operations, although Inverness Airport has a number of scheduled flights to destinations across the UK, as well as chartered flights to Europe.

Scotland technically has no national airline, the former British Caledonian which was based in Scotland was taken over by British Airways in the 1980s. Some Scottish-based airlines operating include:
* bmi regional- a subsidiary of bmi which is based at Aberdeen Airport;
* Eastern Airways- based at Aberdeen Airport;
* Flyglobespan, a low cost airline operating international flights to mainly European holiday destinations from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen;
* Loganair- a Flybe franchise (previously operated as a British Airways franchise ) operating between Glasgow International, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness to the Scottish Islands and Northern Ireland.
* Scot Airways- based at Dundee Airport and Edinburgh.

British Airways, bmi, Flybe, Jet2, Ryanair and easyJet all operate flights between Scotland and other major UK and European airports.


See also

*Transport in the United Kingdom
**Transport in England
**Transport in Wales
**Transport in Northern Ireland
*Transport in the Republic of Ireland
*Transport Scotland
** [ Key facts]
* [ Scotland Railways] Scottish Rail site with timetables, maps and cross-network passes for foreign travellers in Scotland.
*Scotch gauge
* List of Tramways in Scotland

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