Commuters face more misery after tunnel completion

The final stages of work are carried out by railway engineers in the Winchburgh Tunnel, West Lothian. Picture: Jane Barlow
The final stages of work are carried out by railway engineers in the Winchburgh Tunnel, West Lothian. Picture: Jane Barlow
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COMMUTERS looking forward to the end of six weeks’ disruption on Scotland’s busiest rail line tomorrow face the prospect of more to come next year.

A £17 million upgrading of the Winchburgh tunnel on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow route will finish on time and budget, the ScotRail Alliance, which includes Network Rail, announced yesterday.

The completion of track lowering to enable electric trains to run will end the need for passengers to use slower lines between the cities or switch to buses for part of their journey.

It is the most significant engineering on the 173-year-old line since Victorian times, and forms part of the £742m Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme for longer trains and faster journeys. The first electric trains are due in December 2016.

However, travellers are in for further upheaval from next March when the main part of Queen Street station at the Glasgow end of the line shuts for four months.

This is to replace 40-year-old slabs under the rails in the station’s mile-long access tunnel.

The closure of Scotland’s third-busiest station from 20 March to 8 August is expected to halve the frequency of trains on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line to half hourly, The Scotsman has learned.

They would be switched to Queen Street’s low-level station, underneath the main concourse.

But journey times are likely to increase because trains would run into the station on an anti-clockwise loop, in via Anniesland and out via Springburn.

Services from Dunblane and Alloa would be diverted to the low-level station too.

Trains on the Aberdeen and Inverness lines would be moved to Glasgow Central, also with possible extra journey times.

A two-year upgrade of Queen Street will follow from 2017 to lengthen platforms for new, longer electric trains.

However, the station will remain open, like Haymarket in Edinburgh during its major overhaul in 2013. Robert Samson, manager of watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers will be pleased to see a return to normal service this weekend following the work on the Winchburgh tunnel.

“The massive investment and redevelopment of Glasgow Queen Street is absolutely necessary.

“Most passengers will benefit in the long-term from the improved station and increased capacity, which should reduce overcrowding.

“However, passengers won’t be happy about the disruption this project will cause.

“The rail industry will need to work hard to give passengers plenty of notice of changes to timetables and be on hand to provide them with the necessary help and information.”

Alliance managing director Phil Verster said: “We would like to thank our customers for their patience and co-operation while the tunnel has been closed.

“Passengers adapted very quickly to the unavoidable short-term disruption and we are very grateful for their understanding and support.”

An Alliance spokesman added: “Building on the success of the Winchburgh tunnel closure, we are working on a timetable to minimise the impact [of the Queen Street closure] on customers.

“Further details will be announced in due course to allow our customers to plan ahead.”