Edinburgh-Glasgow rail faces train upgrade delay

'The government is paying lip service to transport users' Patrick Harvie MSP. Picture: Chris Stephen
'The government is paying lip service to transport users' Patrick Harvie MSP. Picture: Chris Stephen
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COMMUTERS on Scotland’s flagship rail line will have to wait two years longer than expected for more seats, The Scotsman has learned.

The latest blow to passengers on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow route comes days after it emerged that promised cuts in journey times would also not happen until 2018.

Opposition parties united to condemn the further setback to the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme (Egip), which was slimmed down by one-third to £650 million last July to save money.

They said the delay to longer trains on the line made a mockery of transport minister Keith Brown’s declaration last week of a new “golden age” of rail, with passenger numbers higher than in the last peak in the 1920s.

The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said it had never confirmed that longer or faster trains would be operating on the route as soon as electrification is completed at the end of 2016.

However, officials do not appear to have made it clear until now that the main benefits of the upgrade to passengers will not happen until December 2018.

This is because it has emerged that cutting back the project means other routes which feed into the main line will continue to be operated with diesel trains, which have only about half the acceleration of electric engines.

A planned eight-minute reduction in journey times to 42 minutes will not now be achieved until 2018, when the lines to Dunblane and Alloa are also electrified.

Now it has emerged that planned eight-coach trains will not run until then either, compared with the six-coach maximum at present.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “Passenger growth figures for the Edinburgh- Glasgow route are the determining factor for introducing longer trains. We are planning to introduce eight-car trains to the December 2018 timetable to match forecast demand.”

Glasgow Green MSP and former Holyrood transport committee convener Patrick Harvie said: “This statement shows the Scottish Government is paying lip service to long- suffering public transport users.

“Only the other day, the minister was hailing a golden age of rail travel with record passenger numbers. Now his officials tell us there aren’t enough passengers to justify longer trains for another five years.

“Try telling that to commuters who already find themselves crammed in the Edinburgh-Glasgow service, or the many visitors whose experience of rail travel between Scotland’s two main cities must leave a bad impression.”