James Ledgerwood, Head of Economic Development at ScotRail, has over 20 years’ experience in delivering a range of award-winning regeneration and economic growth projects throughout Scotland, working with the public, private and community sectors. He joined ScotRail in April 2015 at the start of the new Abellio franchise.
Earlier this year, I spoke at a gathering in the Scottish Parliament about the importance of Scotland’s towns.
As I stood in front of the audience, I could spot questions beginning to form in their minds. For those who knew my background in economic development, the question was –
‘Why was I now working for the trains?’
And for others, it was – ‘What have trains got to do with small towns?’
The answer to both unspoken queries was simple. A safe, punctual and sustainable rail network is vital to the success of Scotland’s economy, from our rural towns to our major cities. Scotland’s railway must operate in a way that recognises this wider role. We must develop more positive relationships with communities, ensuring that wider economic and social objectives are at the centre of business thinking.
No better example of this is in the Scottish Borders.
Opened by her Majesty the Queen in September this year, it would be easy to say that with 125,000 passengers in the first month (exceeding all projections) the new Borders Railway has been a success. Surely all that is now required is to keep the trains running? But that is only half the story.
Everyone in the Borders must now work together to ensure that the long term economic and community opportunities are fulfilled – for people, working, living, investing, learning and visiting the area. It’s a shared responsibility.
Across Scotland the increasing pressures on our town’s roads and carparks suggests our railway stations can be effective catalysts for future economic growth and investment. With the demise of retail in many places, our towns are having to change. Our leisure and night-time economies are growing and rail can support this, by forging better relationships with local councils, businesses and other stakeholders.
Scotland’s Towns Week is upon us, and Abellio ScotRail is delighted to be sponsoring this year’s event. Our railway is changing for the better and we look forward to working with our national and local partners to help deliver successful sustainable towns.