TRAIN passengers yesterday faced 44 days of rail chaos as work began on the Winchburgh Tunnel to pave the way for new electric trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Travellers in central Scotland are bracing themselves for more than six weeks of crowded trains and replacement bus services on some routes due to the disruption.
Trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow were yesterday running slower than usual, with typical journey times lasting around 90 minutes rather than the usual 55, while other services in central Scotland were also affected.
ScotRail said the closure had so far gone according to plan, saying most passengers were aware of the delays in advance and had planned their journey accordingly.
The closure of the Winchburgh Tunnel to allow an electrification programme to go ahead will cut the line between Linlithgow and Edinburgh, adding at least 30 minutes to rail journeys across much of central and east Scotland. The work is part of a £742 million project which will allow the introduction of faster, greener and quieter electric trains by 2016. Engineers will be lowering and relaying the two lines of track through the 330m-long tunnel and installing equipment to carry the overhead power lines.
ScotRail said it expected major commuter routes to be busier than usual until the works finish on 26 July but added that the majority of customers travelling yesterday were aware of the Winchburgh works and had made the necessary changes to travel plans.
A spokeswoman added: “We encourage passengers to check their journeys at www.scotrail.co.uk/winchburgh or via the ScotRail app.”
One traveller said trains between Edinburgh to Glasgow were yesterday packed with passengers. “It was pretty full, especially for a Saturday afternoon,” he said. “It could be quite chaotic in the morning rush hour during the week.”
In a statement to passengers on its website, ScotRail apologised for the delays: “This will undoubtedly cause inconvenience and we’re sorry,” it said.
“We’re doing all we can to minimise the impact on our customers, including having extra staff on the ground to assist.”
Transport Scotland added: “Where possible we have scheduled works during what is traditionally the quietest time of the year, but would ask that people plan ahead and allow extra time for their journeys.”
There will be no direct trains between Falkirk High and Edinburgh for the six-week period, while the Alloa/Dunblane and Stirling to Edinburgh line will also be affected.
Some weekday Perth, Aberdeen and Inverness services will be altered too, with several trains departing a few minutes earlier than normal and one cancellation per day between Perth and Edinburgh. Replacement buses are serving Edinburgh Park.