THE doubling of train services on the popular Oban and Glasgow route was launched today.
Community celebrations with a piper greeted the first arrival in the West Highland town this morning.
The increase in service to six per day Mondays-Saturdays was assisted by a partnership between public-private Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership co-ordinating body Hitrans, Argyll and Bute Council and First ScotRail.
Funded by the rail firm, the new services include an early morning train from Oban which will reach Glasgow before 9am – which will suit both business and leisure travellers – and a new evening service which will connect with the southbound Caledonian Sleeper at Crianlarich.
The other northbound new services from Glasgow are at 10.37 and 16:37, while southbound there will also be an extra train at 14.41 in addition to the new 05:20 and 20.37.
Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said: “The doubling of trains will undoubtedly boost business and strengthen the local economy. In this momentous year, including the Commonwealth Games and Homecoming, Oban is perfectly placed to take advantage of a boom in tourism.”
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “I’m delighted to see these additional services between Glasgow and Oban get underway and welcome this important improvement to the Scottish rail network.
He said these enhancements were a direct result of the Scottish Government successfully negotiating a continuation of the ScotRail franchise to the 31st March 2015.
The minister said: “By doubling the trains on the route, we offer regular commuters more travel options and provide the local economy with a boost by making it even easier for visitors to get a taste of the fantastic tourist offering in Argyll and Bute.
“These additional services will also improve connections to one of Scotland’s busiest ferry ports, bringing similar benefits to the island economies in the Inner and Outer Hebrides.”
Councillor Duncan Macintyre, who represents Oban North and Lorn and is also a Hitrans Board Member, said the opportunities range from daily commuting into Oban from stations from Crianlarich to Connel Ferry to day trips to Glasgow for work, education and leisure.
He added: “There will also be faster services with the last train of the day, the 2036 from Oban, arriving in Glasgow in less than three hours.
“There are improved connections with Calmac ferries to the Inner and Outer Hebrides - and Oban’s waterfront will be more accessible to visitors from Central Scotland, the rest of the UK, even Europe.
Steve Montgomery, ScotRail’s managing director, said: “We are delighted to introduce further links for the Oban community with the central belt and beyond, and thank all involved in the partnership to deliver this welcome boost in services.”