The County You Live, Work And Play
SNP Politicians Accuse Council Of Delaying Plains Rail Station Bid
A ROW has broken out over progress in the long-running Plains railway station debate after SNP politicians wrote to village residents criticising the pace of a council-led funding bid.
Airdrie & Shotts MSP Alex Neil, Westminster parliamentary candidate Neil Gray and local councillor Sophia Coyle sent out a letter claiming “unnecessary” delays in submitting an application to the £30million Scottish stations fund.
Mr Neil is accusing North Lanarkshire of “dragging its feet” over the issue – but furious councillors have hit back, variously saying that the process is being protracted by Scottish Government requirements, and condemning use of the issue as a “political football” ahead of the forthcoming general election.
The SNP politicians suggest in their joint letter to Plains residents that preparation of the application should be accelerated, encouraging them to write to the council about the issue; and they call for support from Pamela Nash MP, who they say has been “silent on this issue”.
However, council officials say they have been instructed that a 2014 study by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport – concluding that a station in the village is feasible – is not sufficient for application purposes and that they must additionally commission a lengthy Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance document.
Former infrastructure secretary Mr Neil, who described bringing a station to Plains as one of his top priorities following his 2011 election in the constituency, said: “The council has to stop dragging its feet and commit to the new station application.
“There can be no more delays in this application process – the Scottish Government has given North Lanarkshire Council every opportunity, including a railway stations fund, and it is now down to the council to get on with the job at minimal cost to them.”
He and his party colleagues add in their letter: “We will work with anybody and do all we can to get a new railway station for Plains.”
North Lanarkshire planning and transportation convener James Coyle said: “The delay has been caused by Transport Scotland, an executive agency of the Scottish Government in which Alex Neil is a minister – despite the previous Scottish Government agreeing that the case had been made by the council.
“Alex Neil promised the people of Plains a station. He should get on with it and deliver his promise rather than trying to desperately pin the blame on the council, which has jumped through every hoop presented by a government which has procrastinated at every stage.”
Fellow Labour politician Miss Nash added: “The people of Plains will not be taken in by the smoke and mirrors approach of the SNP. The provision of rail services is a statutory responsibility of the Scottish Government.
“Alex Neil is desperately trying to blame everyone else for a decision made by the government that he is part of. The council has, over many years, submitted much evidence to support the creation of a station in Plains, but the Scottish Government keep moving the goalposts.
“I’ve consistently and repeatedly called for a Plains train station and will continue to do so.”
Residents and politicians of both sides have been united in a shared desire to see a station in the village since plans were first announced to restore the Airdrie to Bathgate railway link, which opened to passengers more than four years ago.
Caldercruix became North Lanarkshire’s sole new stop at a time when just one halt was also being added in West Lothian; a second station was later added in the neighbouring council area but a bid to then include Plains was unsuccessful.
Mr Neil said there was cross-party “political unity” over the proposal at the time of the fund’s launch, with council officials agreeing that they have “always supported the creation of a station at Plains”.
Airdrie North Labour councillor Tommy Morgan, who lives in the village, said: “It’s disgraceful that this issue is still a political football, and it’s insulting to the people of Plains to see it continually manipulated for party purposes.
“This letter is mischief-making in the run-up to an election and my fear is that the subject will then be kicked into the long grass again.”