Passengers left frustrated as rail tunnel work begins

Passengers get off a bus at Haymarket Station from Linlithgow. Picture: Julie Bull
Passengers get off a bus at Haymarket Station from Linlithgow. Picture: Julie Bull
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It’s supposed to be the train that takes the strain, but during yesterday’s morning rush hour the misery was heaped on replacement bus passengers as six weeks of engineering works on the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line got under way.

With a reduced service between Linlithgow and the Capital for the next 44 days thanks to electrification work at the 
Winchburgh tunnel, passengers were told to brace themselves for long delays and packed carriages.

In fact, those arriving on trains along the alternative route from Glasgow were soldiering on without major complaint.

“It was actually surprisingly quiet. I was expecting it to be really busy,” said Derek Marr, 66, from Livingston.

“My train was much busier,” said Timothy Dunkley, 44, from Cambuslang. “I couldn’t get a seat, but normally I’d be able to. It’s just a fact of life, isn’t it? People will get used to it.”

Despite using slower services making more stops, passengers from Glasgow reported delays of just ten to 15 minutes. But for many of those commuting from Linlithgow or Falkirk on the buses, yesterday morning was a battle, with journeys taking up to four times as long as normal.

“We left Linlithgow at about ten to eight, and here I am just getting to Haymarket at five past nine, for a journey that usually takes 23 minutes,” said Marion Judge, 54.

Passengers were being dropped off by the side of the road on busy Haymarket Terrace, ironically in front of the bar called Platform Five.

At times, it seemed like the drivers were more stressed out than the passengers as they 
attempted to navigate heavy traffic around Haymarket. Some of the 200 staff drafted in to help with the disruption came from as far away as operator Abellio’s London operation.

At the weekend, one driver was reported to have waited at South Gyle station for 40 minutes for a bus he was due to drive from Edinburgh Park.

“They’re doing their best,” said one passenger, who gave her name as Katie. “We were meandering around for about 45 minutes. I’m not sure he knew the way.”

As rush-hour traffic bled into the morning, things weren’t getting any easier for ScotRail’s harassed bus drivers. One bus overshot the temporary stop and came to a halt by some double yellow lines on the Haymarket junction.

“She’s overheated,” the driver exclaimed as he rushed out of his cab. The bus was blocking traffic in the left-hand lane for roughly ten minutes before moving off.

A ScotRail spokeswoman said: “We will be closely monitoring the customer experience for the duration of the tunnel closure.

“It’s already clear that most of our regular travellers are aware of the work, and the need to allow more time, and we’d like to thank them in advance for continuing to heed our advice as the work progresses.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com