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Fears £800m train project will fail to hit its journey-time target

Jamie Greene MSP (Allan Milligan)
Jamie Greene MSP (Allan Milligan)

RAIL chiefs have raised doubts a troubled £800 million project to cut 10 minutes off the train trip between Edinburgh and Glasgow will deliver the time savings.

Slashing the 52-minute journey time is the centrepiece of a delayed scheme to run electric trains on Scotland’s busiest railway line.

But new Network Rail documents show current projections “indicate a journey time greater than 42 minutes”.

The files also show engineers are undertaking work “to investigate whether a 42-minute journey is obtainable on the current planned stopping patterns”.

Despite mounting delays, SNP ministers have long insisted the electrification project will be completed by December 2018.

But the Network Rail documents show Transport Scotland was warned as early as January this year that the target was under threat, with rail chiefs suggesting a completion date in 2109 instead.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Jamie Greene said: “This is a multi-million pound project which has been nothing short of botched by the SNP government.

“It’s almost laughable that the journey time can’t be guaranteed, when this was one of the main reasons for embarking on the scheme.

“This is a connection between Scotland’s two main cities. It’s imperative for business and reputational reasons that we get this right.”

The Sunday Post asked Network Rail for all the reports it had shared with Transport Scotland within the last 12 months which assessed whether the objective of a 42-minute journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh will be achieved by December 2018.

The network operator released a string of project updates which included the revelation that “current sectional running time indicate a journey time greater than 42 minutes”.

Another report states, “extra modelling work is being undertaken for the class 385s [the new electric trains which will run on the route] using revised acceleration rates from Hitachi.

“This is to investigate whether a 42-minute journey is obtainable on the current planned stopping patterns”.

Another report puts the end point of the project at March 2019, not December 2018, as Transport Scotland has always insisted.

The Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme project has been besieged by delays and inconvenience for passengers and the cost is thought to stand at £795m – a 22% hike in just three years.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman pointed out that as far back as 2013 the rail industry said the 42-minute journey time was achievable and that development work continues because it depend on the publishing of train timetables, which occurs at set points every year.

She added: “Minsters continue to push the industry to meet its commitment of delivering a fastest journey time of 42-minutes between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Falkirk High by December 2018; a target industry partners confirmed as achievable in 2013.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We’re working closely with the Scottish Government to electrify our network and build the best railway Scotland has ever had. Electrification will allow us to run faster, longer, more reliable, greener trains while increasing the number of seats available to our passengers.

“This is a huge investment in Scotland’s railway that will help transform travel on our network.”