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Call for Highland sleeper service to London and new extension to the West Highland Line to tackle rural depopulation – Scottish Business News



TIM Eagle MSP has urged the Scottish Government to get on board with an extension to the Highland sleeper service from Oban to London and new connections to the West Highland Line to tackle the issue of rural depopulation

The Highlands and Islands MSP spoke at a parliamentary debate brought forward by the Scottish Conservatives and colleague Liam Kerr MSP on rail infrastructure, making the case for improved services throughout the region.

Mr Eagle spoke of his disappointment at the outcomes of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR2), which will inform investment in Scotland for the next 20 years by providing evidence-based recommendations to base future transport decisions on.

He said the lack of Scottish Government investment in rail infrastructure across the Highlands and Islands in places such as Argyll and Bute was contributing to concerning levels of depopulation.

The MSP voiced his support for improvements to be made to address the issue, including a new rail connection to/from Cowal to the West Highland Line, and also to Kintyre through the use of fixed links.

He also called for improved rail connectivity between Oban and London through the introduction of a sleeper service.

At the Scottish Parliament, Mr Eagle said: “Many communities across the Highlands and Islands Region are witnessing alarming rates of depopulation, in part because of a lack of investment in such infrastructure.

“Argyll and Bute is at particular risk, with a report published by SPICe in 2022 showing that Argyll’s islands experienced the highest depopulation in Scotland over the last 20 years.

“The Isle of Bute was worst hit, and it of course, is heavily reliant on both a ferry service, and rail infrastructure at Wemyss Bay.

“But this issue is affecting all parts of my region, and more investment is needed.”

He added: “Disappointingly, none of the suggestions made it to the final recommendations in the STPR2.

“No new stations. No new lines.”

The MSP continued: “The Highlands and Islands needs more train stations, but it also needs wider investment across the board on infrastructure, especially if we are to tackle the real issues of rural depopulation.”

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