A KEY section of the main Edinburgh-Glasgow rail line is to shut for more than six weeks, causing travel chaos for commuters.
The closure, expected in summer 2015, is to allow electrification of the Winchburgh tunnel in West Lothian, as part of the £650 million Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP).
Transport Minister Keith Brown confirmed the move in a letter to MSPs, but pointed out the closure would be shorter than the three months which had been speculated about.
He gave no details of how commuters would be re-routed. Some trains could be diverted via Dalmeny, near South Queensferry, but trains would have to then reverse because a planned link line, or chord, was shelved by the minister last year to save money. In his letter to MSPs in affected areas, Mr Brown wrote: “I can now confirm that the current assessment of the likely duration of the closure is 44 days, substantially less than the ‘three months’ being quoted in some quarters, with my officials continuing to work closely with both Network Rail and First ScotRail to try to reduce this duration even further.
“These works have been planned for summer months to reduce the number of passengers affected by the disruption, however, all connections will be maintained via diversionary routes.”
He said an estimated £10 million compensation would be paid to ScotRail because of the disruption to trains.
EGIP is due for completion by the end of 2016.
Last year, the budget for the scheme was cut from £1 billion to £650m.
The original promised six trains an hour on the main line between the two cities, a journey time down to just 35 minutes and easy access to Edinburgh Airport by switching to the tram at the new Gateway station at Gogar.
But the revised scheme means only four trains an hour, a journey of 40 minutes and trains from the west can no longer use the Gateway station. A crucial piece of extra track – known as the “Dalmeny chord” – to allow trains from Glasgow to call at the Gateway station will no longer be built.
A spokesman for Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland said: “We are confident that working together Network Rail and First ScotRail will minimise passenger disruption across the network during the EGIP works.
“Network Rail have confirmed they expect the closure to last around 44 days – significantly less than the 12-week period reported, and will be carried out in the summer months with all rail connections maintained via diversionary routes.
“We will be working with our rail partners to bring the 44 day closure in further still and will keep passengers updated on progress.”