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60% of Scots back devolution of Network Rail, poll finds

Network Rail is responsible for maintaining rail infrastructure (Peter Byrne/PA) Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

The majority of the public support the devolution of Network Rail in Scotland, according to new research.

A survey carried out as part of a wider report on rail north of the border found 60% of Scots believe decisions on Scotland’s railways should be taken by organisations overseen by the Scottish Government.

Only 30% believe decisions should be taken by organisations overseen by both the Scottish and UK governments, as happens now.

At present, Network Rail, which is responsible for maintaining rail infrastructure, is funded by Transport Scotland but is ultimately accountable to Westminster rather than Holyrood.

The Scottish Government has been pressing for its full devolution, arguing the move would help to improve performance on the railways.

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Public views on the issue were explored as part of a report written by former UK transport minister and now independent transport consultant Tom Harris, using new polling research by consultant Mark Diffley.

The report was commissioned by Abellio but Mr Harris said it was researched, written and managed independently.

Survey data was gathered from 1,063 people in May, using the ScotPulse panel.

Alongside support for decisions to be taken in Scotland, the survey found that less than 20% of people “know a lot” about either Network Rail or train operator Abellio ScotRail.

Meanwhile, there was also confusion about who owns and runs different aspects of the railways.

Mr Harris said: “The public and political debate about the future of Scotland’s railways has suffered from confusion about who is responsible for what.

The research was commissioned by Abellio Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

“This tends to lead to politicised solutions to any perceived problems which, more often than not, are informed by ideology rather than reality.

“This research, however, makes it clear that the public is focused on operations rather than politics.

“Public support for the operational devolution of Network Rail is clear, with less than one-third favouring the status quo and six in ten favouring a clear structure under the control of the Scottish Government.

“This is not a political or constitutional issue. It is simply about how to best-run our railways.”

The full report is due to be published on August 20.