IT’S ScotRail’s satnav approach to sanitation. Scotland’s main train operator is using satellite technology to prevent passengers flushing train toilets in stations on the world’s most scenic line.
The UK-first technology has been successfully trialled on the West Highland lines between Glasgow, Oban and Mallaig to stop toilet waste being emptied onto tracks beside platforms.
Trains on the routes, which have received accolades for their breathtaking scenery, are the only ones in the ScotRail fleet not to have toilet retention tanks because it has proved impractical to fit them.
The system uses GPS technology to pre-programme the co-ordinates of stations, to enable the toilet flushing mechanism to be temporarily disabled until the train has departed.
ScotRail said its 48-strong fleet of class-156 diesel trains would be fitted with the new equipment by November, which will also cover other stations on which they operate, such as around Glasgow and in south west Scotland.
It said: “We have come up with an innovative solution – including the use of GPS technology – that should eliminate waste ending up on tracks at the station.
“Following a successful trial, we are fitting all class-156 trains with an electronic ‘smart’ system where the toilet flush will operate only when away from stations.
“The system uses GPS technology – by pre-programming co-ordinates for stations on the route, we can inhibit the flush mechanism in these areas.”
The Friends of the West Highland Lines, which campaigns for improvements to the routes, said Oban, Taynuilt and Fort William were among the worst-affected stations.
Chairman Doug Carmichael said: “We welcome technology that will take away the ghastly sight of waste on the tracks, which passengers see, especially at terminus stations.”
Readers of Wanderlust magazine have twice voted the routes as the “best line” for scenery for the stunning views of some of Scotland’s finest lochs and mountains.
That has placed the West Highland journey above world-renowned routes such as the trans-Siberian railway and Peruvian line to Machu Picchu.
A ScotRail spokeswoman said: “We believe we are the first train operator in the UK to use GPS technology in this way.
ScotRail has previously fitted retention tanks to all 48 trains in its class-158 fleet, which operate on routes such as those between Inverness and Aberdeen, Kyle of Lochalsh, Wick and Thurso.
All trains built since about 1990 have tanks and do not discharge onto the track, but the class-156s were made between 1987 and 1989. They are expected to have a 30-year lifespan.
However, some other trains that operate in Scotland also have toilets that still flush onto tracks, such as East Coast’s services between London, Aberdeen and Inverness.