Published: 23rd January 2016
Passengers travelling by train on two major routes in Scotland face weeks of disruption. One is unplanned disruption caused by the recent storms while the other is due to investment on the line connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The West Coast Main Line (WCML) remains closed on the long section between stations at Lockerbie and Carstairs because of unexpected weather damage. The Edinburgh and Glasgow railway will be involved in several months of disruption due to pre-planned engineering work in Glasgow.
The WCML was closed north of Lockerbie after a viaduct over the River Clyde at Lamington in South Lanarkshire was damaged by Storm Frank at the end of December. At first it was hoped that the line might reopen during January, then that trains would return on 1 February. However, on 18 January it was confirmed that the line would remain closed until the first week in March because of the extent of the damage.
Meantime, First TransPennine Express trains were replaced by buses between Edinburgh and Glasgow and Lockerbie, with trains running south of there.
Caledonian Sleepers continued to serve Glasgow by using diversionary routes via Newcastle with extended journey times and have also used Kings Cross instead of Euston for the first time since 1988.
Virgin Trains ran buses instead of trains north of Carlisle although some special trains were run on the slower route between Glasgow and Carlisle through Dumfries.
Passengers are advised to check their journey times in advance.
Of the separate problems on the West Coast Main Line, Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance said: "The damage caused by Storm Frank to the Lamington Viaduct has been very serious. Our engineers have been in a race against time to get the structure stabilised and prevent it from collapsing into the Clyde.
"Only now that we have won that race can we really see the full extent of the damage."
The damage from the floodwater is significant. Unfortunately the scale of the damage and the complex nature of the engineering challenges mean that the repair is going to take longer than we’d initially thought.
All the train companies who operate services on the West Coast Main Line are working together to make sure that we keep goods and people moving. The temporary timetables and arrangements that have been in place for the past couple of weeks are going to have to continue. That is why it is so important that anyone who is travelling on this route checks before they travel.
We are doing everything we can to get the repairs done and the line reopened quickly and safely.
It is understood that Network Rail maintenance may have been reduced to save money in the affected area and that a more rigorous inspection regime was agreed with train operators but not implemented. The Office of Rail and Road is investigating these claims.
If this is found to be correct, Network Rail can expect to be at the wrong end of claims from train companies whose services have been affected.
But changes to train timetables in central Scotland on Glasgow Queen Street routes are being carefully pre-planned with the aim of benefitting passengers in the longer term.
The High Level platforms at Glasgow Queen Street station will be closed for 20 weeks from Sunday 20 March.
That is to allow significant alterations, particularly in the tunnel between the station and Cowlairs, in preparation for longer, faster electric trains to and from Edinburgh. Some trains in and out of Glasgow Queen Street will be diverted to Glasgow Central while others will loop around to call at the Low Level platforms at Queen Street instead of terminating at or starting from the High Level platforms.
Passengers between Edinburgh and Glasgow are recommended to travel by an alternative route, either on electric services via Bathgate and Airdrie and through the Low Level platforms at Queen Street, or on one of the two routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow Central.
Additional time should be allowed for many journeys until the High Level platforms at Queen Street can re-open. Normal timetabling is expected again from 8 August.
According to the ScotRail Alliance of Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail Scotland, the closure of the 918 metres Queen Street High Level tunnel is necessary to enable the renewal of 1,800 metres of formation of concrete slab track and the installation of 4,000 metres of new rails.
It is the largest piece of engineering undertaken on the route between Edinburgh and Glasgow through Falkirk High since the railway was opened in 1842 west of Haymarket, and was extended in 1846 into what became Edinburgh Waverley station.
Concrete slab track originally installed around 40 years ago has begun to deteriorate and extra clearance is needed for overhead wires when electric trains are introduced later in 2016 under EGIP, the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Project. The new slab track scheme is designed to last for 60 years.
Significant preparations for electrification are already in hand. And the eastern end of the route is already electrified through Edinburgh’s Waverley and Haymarket stations.
Railway enthusiasts are likely to find enjoyment that other rail users may be less likely to appreciate. With trains for the north through Stirling, including those from and to Aberdeen and Inverness, diverted to and from Glasgow Central via an alternative route with extended journey times, “track-bashers” will find somewhere new to travel.
It will also be a novelty to travel on a loop through Springburn, Queen Street Low Level, Partick and Maryhill rather than on the usual direct line in and out of Queen Street High Level, on Edinburgh trains and others that run through Croy. Train tickets can be booked via www.redspottedhanky.com
More than 10,000 tonnes of existing concrete slab will be removed during 140 days and nights of round-the-clock working. More than 150 workers will be involved every day and the total work will represent more than half a million person-hours.