The way forward for Scotland’s airports and railways

There’s only about 60 km between Scotland’s two largest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh (counting from city boundary to city boundary along the motorway), yet they have separate airports and it takes 50 minutes to take a train from city centre to city centre.

Looking further afar, Inverness is only about 180 km north of Glasgow as the crow flies, or about 270 km by road, yet the fastest train is underway for almost 3½ hours.

I could give similar figures for travel to the other Scottish cities, such as Aberdeen and Dundee.

This is ridiculous! It’s like all efforts go into providing good connexions to London, instead of tying Scotland closer together.

In an ideal world, I’d shut down Glasgow and Edinburgh airports and build a new one south of Falkirk (the exact location would of course have to depend on the topology). I’d then build some very straight rail tracks from Glasgow via the new airport to Edinburgh, so that the trains could achieve a decent speed (I’m imagining something like 15 minutes from either city centre to the airport, or about 30 minutes from Glasgow to Edinburgh).

Furthermore, I’d straighten out the tracks to at least Inverness and Aberdeen, add parallel tracks and electrify the whole lot, so that decent speeds could be achieved there, too. I’m not sure exactly what would be possible, but I reckon it should be possible to get the travel time from Inverness to Glasgow or Edinburgh down to under two hours, and hopefully close to one hour.

The effect would be that all Scottish cities would be within easy reach of each other, which would no doubt do wonders for the Scottish economy. It would also mean only one airport was needed for mainland Scotland, which would result in a big airport with lots of direct connexions, instead of just having small airports mainly sending passengers on to the larger hub airports such as Heathrow.

Besides, I’m sure a big infrastructure project such as this would be just what the doctor ordered against the recession…

Scottish phone numbers after independence

Originally uploaded by zigazou76

Once Scotland becomes independent, it would be natural to get its own international dialling code instead of the British +44.

My guess is that Scotland would get +424 – it’s similar to +44, it’s available, and it’s in the European block.

This change wouldn’t happen immediately — the Czech Republic and Slovakia got their own codes in 1997, four years after independence.

There’s of course nothing that would prevent Scotland from stopping there, resulting in phone numbers such as +424 (0)141 639 9718. However, this would be unnecessarily long.

There are only two three-digit area codes in Scotland, (0)141 (Glasgow) and (0)131 (Edinburgh); these could easily be mapped to one-digit codes instead, such as (0)4 and (0)3.

Similarly, the four-digit codes could be mapped to two-digit ones, e.g., (0)24 instead of (0)1224 (Aberdeen). (See all the current area codes here.)

After shortening the area codes, all Scottish phone numbers would effectively have only eight digits in total, so perhaps the area codes could be permanently fused with the phone numbers, just like it happened in Denmark a few decades ago.

A few examples:

Area Current 1st stage 2nd stage
Glasgow, 0141 +44 (0)141 639 9718 +424 (0)4 639 9718 +424 4639 9718
Edinburgh, 0131 +44 (0)131 348 5200 +424 (0)3 348 5200 +424 3348 5200
Aberdeen, 01224 +44 (0)1224 272 000 +424 (0)24 272 000 +424 2427 2000
Isle of Arran, 01770 +44 (0)1770 600 341 +424 (0)17 600 341 +424 1760 0341

Scotland and the rUK in the EU

I’ve blogged before about the fact that Scotland on its own has a very normal-sized population within an northern European context.

It’s quite illustrative to look at all the member states of the European Union (logarithmic scale):

Scotland (the small pink column) is slightly smaller than the average, being of almost exactly the same size as Denmark, Slovakia and Finland, and somewhat more populous than Ireland.

Interestingly, the graph also says something about England’s reluctance to let Scotland leave: While Germany is by far the most populous country, the current UK and France are competing for second place; however, without Scotland, both France and Italy have significantly larger populations that the Rest of the United Kingdom (rUK) – I’m sure this relegation won’t go down very well in certain quarters.