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Strathclyde Business School

Delivering economic growth through investment in Scotland’s rail network

By Sean Duffy - Posted on 17 July 2014

Sean Duffy is Commercial Director of ScotRail and is also studying an MBA at Strathclyde Business School. Here he discusses a recent Fraser of Allander Institute study looking into the rail network’s impact on the tourism sector…

The phrase ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ has suffered from overuse in recent times. It’s a bit like the use of the word ‘legend’ when it comes to over-rated footballers, something which fans of Brazil’s team might be able to identify with following their recent meltdown.

But I don’t think many people would argue with the notion that Scotland’s tourism sector is currently enjoying a year which really does only come along once in a generation.

There’s surely never been anything to compare with the line-up of events happening in Scotland this year. If you can’t find something that whets your appetite from a menu consisting of the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, the Edinburgh Festival, the MTV Europe Music awards and a host of other events, then clearly your cultural palate is a bit jaded.

The fact that the eyes of the world – and particularly its tourist visitors – will be turned towards this country in 2014 is not only very exciting; it’s also a massive opportunity for our economy.

More people than ever are travelling by train - in the year to 31st March 2014, we delivered a record 86.3million journeys. And with several of the events mentioned above on the horizon in the coming months, that figure will continue to grow.

As commercial director of ScotRail, my focus is on the role we’ll play in maximising that opportunity. Strathclyde Business School’s Fraser of Allander Institute has just published a study which calculated that our contribution to Scotland’s tourism industry totals £1.22billion in GDP each year.

It also found that, across Scotland, we directly enable 37,721 jobs and revealed that 42million people travelled for leisure in 2012 - representing 54% of all journeys made on Scotland’s railways.

We understand the importance of sustained investment to continually improve our services, especially in this landmark year for Scotland. While this adds value to our business, as the Fraser of Allander’s figures show, it also delivers considerable benefits for both the tourism sector and the wider Scottish economy.

That’s what lies behind the expansion of timetables and increased services to accommodate additional passengers at events such as the Edinburgh Festival and, in the coming weeks, the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup. Our strategy is to ensure that we add value wherever possible in the knowledge that taking that approach will, in turn, drive up levels of customer satisfaction.

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