ScotRail’s new trains must be a priority to underline rail’s green credentials
ScotRail’s newest trains are a pleasure to travel in, with their bright and spacious interiors transforming travel on its flagship main line between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The Hitachi class 385 trains are also smoother and quieter than their diesel predecessors thanks to the route finally being electrified in 2017 – nearly 60 years after Glaswegians became the first Scottish passengers to travel on electric trains, which replaced steam.
The new trains were the UK’s most reliable when they entered service in 2018 and are still in the top three, averaging 52,000 miles between incidents – that’s half the life of some of the most-travelled cars.
Such a level of reliability and comfort is also vital to attract drivers from their vehicles to try the train in the face of the climate emergency and the Scottish Government’s ambitious targets to reduce emissions, of which transport is a major source.
It is also crucial that ScotRail’s next generation of trains are equally enticing as ministers embark on making its entire fleet zero emission by 2035 – five years ahead of the UK Government.
Three new types of electric, battery and possibly hydrogen trains are to be ordered over the next four years at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds, as The Scotsman reported on Friday, with the first due in service from 2027.
That might seem a huge sum when the Government is under significant budget pressure amid the cost-of-living crisis, but unlike some leading Conservatives who appear to see the environment as a secondary concern, it is critical that our railways send out a strong signal of intent by prioritising such spending.
With UK manufacturing plants suffering a dearth of train orders, it could also provide a major boost to the sector, and just might also realise the ambition of Spanish train builder Talgo to build a factory at the former Longannet Power Station site in Fife if it wins one of the contracts.
At its best, train travel in Scotland, especially through our stunning landscapes, can be both relaxing and exciting.
We need new trains to make that even more environmentally friendly too.
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