Thunderbirds are go for rail rescue of overnight trains
INTERNATIONAL Rescue has been called to the aid of First ScotRail’s breakdown-prone sleeper trains.
"Thunderbird" locomotives, named after characters in the cult 1960s’ television series, are being put on standby in an effort to improve the appalling reliability record of the overnight Scotland-London services. The trains, which serve Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen, will also all now travel with engineers on board to fix faults.
Nearly one in seven sleepers arrived more than 30 minutes late during the past year.
One train reached Glasgow five hours late last month after suffering engine failure at Crewe.
Trains have also been delayed by engineering work, vandalism and gales blowing down overhead power lines.
Performance has improved since locomotives which periodically caught fire were replaced. However, FirstGroup, which took over ScotRail last month, is determined to make further improvements.
Mary Dickson, the managing director of First ScotRail, who described herself as "a fond lover of the sleeper", said that she would be seeking reliability improvements with the Scottish Executive, which funds the franchise, in the next six months.
She said: "We will ensure every service has a travelling fitter and locomotives will be strategically positioned in case of failures."
The Thunderbirds, whose names include Scott Tracy, John Tracy and Lady Penelope, are run by Virgin Trains to rescue locomotives on the west-coast main line, which all the sleepers use. They are stationed along the route, including at Carstairs, Carlisle and Preston.
EWS, whose trains haul the sleepers, has Thunderbirds in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The plans come in addition to First’s promised 1 million upgrade of the sleepers. It will also review smoking in sleeper lounge cars following the Executive’s announcement yesterday of a ban.
A spokeswoman said: "We are aware there have been problems since we took over the franchise. We want to improve reliability as much as possible."
Allan McLean, a spokesman for Virgin, said: "Our Thunderbird locomotives, named after International Rescue characters, are there to help rescue international train services, such as the sleepers."
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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