PASSENGERS will have to wait until 2018 for faster journeys on Scotland’s flagship rail line – two years later than expected, ministers have admitted.
It had been hoped that Edinburgh-Glasgow travel could be cut from 50 to 42 minutes when electrification of the line is completed in December 2016.
However, in the latest setback for the £650 million project, slower-accelerating diesel engines, which share parts of the route, will hold back journey times until they are replaced with electric trains.
Electrification of other routes which feed into the main line, such as from Dunblane and Alloa, was shelved last year when the project was slashed from £1 billion to save money.
Ministers have previously said every minute cut from the journey time would benefit the Scottish economy by £60m a year.
When the electrification project was originally announced, the plan was for the shorter journeys to go into effect when the line was completed. The fastest journeys were later scaled back from 37 to 42 minutes when the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (Egip) was cut last July.
At that time, the Scottish Government gave no suggestion that the introduction of shorter journey times would be delayed.
But last night, the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency insisted it had never said journeys would be cut in 2016, even though that is when the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line electrification will be finished. It said the Dunblane and Alloa lines would be electrified by the end of 2018, but other parts of the project may be completed even later.
Transport minister Keith Brown told MSPs: “By December 2018, we will complete the electrification of the Stirling-Alloa-Dunblane line services and [have] delivered a 42-minute fastest journey time between Edinburgh and Glasgow.”
Mr Brown said he “intended” to publish the long-delayed business case for the Egip project “soon”, setting out how it will be completed.
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “The minister set out the revised plan for Egip in Parliament in July 2012 and at no point did he say that the 42-minute journey time would be achieved by December 2016. By then the line will be fully electrified, which will allow new electric trains to be introduced through the course of the year.
“From December 2017, we expect passengers to see journey time benefits from this. The replacement of the full fleet of diesel trains will be complete by December 2018 and at this point, passengers will see 42 minute journey times between Scotland’s two major cities.”