Trains on ScotRail’s flagship line are unexpectedly getting slower again – only a year after an £858 million upgrade that sped them up.
The number of weekday services running on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow route in the new fastest time of 42 minutes is to be cut from ten to four from 16 December. They will be between one and three minutes slower, Scotland on Sunday has learned.
The setback comes despite ScotRail stating that 42-minute journeys would become the norm for most off-peak trains.
However, the train operator has now said the “sheer volume” of trains on the line – including from other routes – has made it impossible. The route via Falkirk High – known as the “E&G” – has been electrified to speed up journeys with faster-accelerating class 385 trains. Platform lengthening has enabled longer trains to run, with peak-hour services increased to eight carriages.
Average journey times were cut from 51 to 47 minutes last December.
However, just two of more than 120 daily services between the cities on the line were 42 minutes.
The total increased to ten in May - nearly all of them to Glasgow – and was due to rise further.
The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said last October: “As we introduce even more class 385s to the ScotRail fleet, we can expect the May and December 2019 timetable changes to include further services with a 42-minute journey time.”
ScotRail managing director Alex Hynes also told MSPs last November: “The standard service pattern will be 42 minutes wherever possible” – other than at peak times and evenings, when some trains stop more often.
Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Mike Rumbles said: “ScotRail promised passengers fast train trips between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“Those rail users will now rightly be furious to find the pitiful number of trips being run to this ‘standard’ schedule is being further reduced.
“42-minute trips were supposed to be the standard service ‘wherever possible’.”
A ScotRail spokesperson said: “We try to deliver faster journeys in every timetable change – that’s on all routes, not just on the E&G.
“But this can’t be at the detriment of performance, which customers value highly.
“We’ll continue to deliver as many 42-minute journey times as possible with each timetable change, while ensuring our customer still receive a great service.”
A TransportScotland spokesperson said:“Electrification is a fundamental part of our Programme for Government commitment to decarbonise Scotland’s railway by 2035, five years ahead of the UK target.
“The Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme, together with the Shotts and Stirling - Dunblane - Alloa projects have delivered electrification across five routes between two of our major cities, providing 13 trains per hour and greater capacity for more passengers at more stations than ever before.
“Electrification has delivered what was promised - faster, greener, longer trains providing more seats, better connectivity and zero emissions.
“Improving journey times is a key focus for Scotland’s Railway - more improvements will be delivered, including on routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow.”