I recently attended the annual Edinburgh Festivals Forum, which gave an opportunity for a cross-section of Edinburgh organisations to discuss the current and future plans and outlook for Edinburgh's festivals. The discussion was useful, and amongst other things highlighted again (1) that it is Edinburgh residents who make up the biggest part of the audience for the festivals - we enjoy our festivals!; and (2) the importance of good transport links to Edinburgh, not just internationally but from the rest of the UK, to cater for visitors to Edinburgh.
That's why I've actively taken up in Parliament and outside issues concerning Edinburgh's external transport links. I've taken up issues about the future of the airlinks to Edinburgh related to the British Airways takeover of BMI (see here); high speed rail links to the South (see here); the future of the East Coast Main Line rail services (see here); and the future of the Scottish rail franchise (see here).
The most recent development in this field has been the decision by the Transport Department to award the contract for the West Coast Main Line rail services to First, replacing the current operator Virgin. There's been a lot of concern raised about this - First are offering a number of attractive service improvements, but they are also increasing the payback to the government, and questions are being asked about whether this can be done without leading to fare increases for passengers, and cutbacks in staff.
Time will tell who is right. Questions like these highlight, however, the defects in the current system of franchises and a mainly privatised railway. If the new franchise does go ahead, what I will be doing as an MP representing a city served by the route is campaigning to make sure Edinburgh gets the best deal from the new franchise. That means keeping and if possible improving the frequency and speed of the existing Edinburgh-West Midlands services, making sure fares don't rocket, and good connections with local bus and train services, to make just a few suggestions. And staff working for the existing West Coast line need to have short and long term job security. I'd be interested in hearing from constituents what they think are the important issues for them for the future of these routes and I'll be happy to raise them with First, and the Transport Department.