By Oliver Farrimond
NEW evidence has shown that Scots are starting to ditch their cars in favour of train travel.
Statistics released by the Scottish office for National Statistics yesterday has shown a dramatic fall in new car registrations, as well as a drop in numbers travelling to work by car.
In total, the number of new vehicles registered in 2008 fell by 14 per cent to 215,000 – a drop of more than 30,000.
In contrast, the number of ScotRail passengers increased by three per cent, which the group have credited to an “improved performance” and the opening of several new stations.
The data also reveals that Scots roads are safer than ever.
Some 271 people were killed on Scottish roads this year, the lowest figure for more than 50 years.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This report shows encouraging findings.
“The reduction of journeys to work made by car and the slight reduction in the volume of traffic shows that more Scots are beginning to think about their travel choices and the impact these have on our environment.
“The Scottish Government is committed to providing the Scottish people with real alternatives to the car.
“We are investing record levels in public transport in our efforts to encourage people to make a switch to more sustainable modes of transport.
“This will also help us to meet our climate change targets: to reduce Scottish emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050.”
ScotRail said that a renaissance is underway in Scotland’s railways, providing more people with the opportunity to switch to public transport.
A spokesperson said: “We are committed to giving people an attractive alternative to the car, and there is no doubt more people are choosing rail as their preferred means of travel.
“The passenger growth has been delivered against a background of improved performance.
“Our focus on safety, customer service, punctuality and reliability – and investment in stations, trains, and new products – will continue.”
The news comes as Network Rail announced plans to build a £34bn high-speed railway line linking Scotland and London.
200mph trains would cut journey times between Scotland and the UK capital to just over two hours – down from the current time of more than four hours.
Cut in emissions
The move has been welcomed by political parties and environmental campaigners alike.
Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport, said: “Improved journey times could provide significant benefits to Scotland’s economy, while also improving connections and opening up new opportunities.
Cutting journey times between Scotland and London to below the three-hour mark would also offer direct competition with air travel.
“This could result in helping us towards achieving our 42 per cent cut in emissions as set out in our Climate Change Act.”