Rail passengers face six weeks of misery from tomorrow as major works on the main line between Edinburgh and Glasgow get under way.
The closure of the Winchburgh Tunnel to allow a major electrification programme to go ahead will cut the line between Linlithgow and Edinburgh, adding at least 30 minutes to rail journeys across much of central and east Scotland.
From Monday, commuters heading in or out of the city by rail will have to board replacement bus services, or cram themselves onto slower services taking secondary rail lines.
Rail bosses warned travellers to plan ahead, as campaigners blamed lack of investment and a “can’t do attitude” for the disruption – and insisted all problems could have been avoided if a small part of track had been created.
Campaigners blasted the Scottish Government for abandoning plans to build a 3km stretch of track known as the Almond Chord, which could have served as a diversion around the Winchburgh Tunnel, and slammed suggestion it had been abandoned after Transport Scotland claimed the construction cost would have topped £100m.
Ken Sutherland, research officer at pressure group Railfuture Scotland called those figures “science fiction” and said: “The Scottish Government has a can’t do attitude on rail infrastructure, which is why the Almond Chord was never built.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said the cost of constructing the Almond Chord and associated works would not have been “value for money”.
As they geared up to deal with disruptions, Phil Verster, ScotRail’s managing director, said the end result would be worthwhile.
“Electrifying the line between our two biggest cities will allow us to run faster, longer, greener trains that will cut journey times and increase the number of seats available on this key route,” he said.
“While we will always look for ways to do this work without causing too much disruption to our customers, sometimes that disruption is unavoidable. The benefits of the work that we are doing over the summer will be felt for generations to come.”
No trains will run on the main line between Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street. Instead, replacement buses will connect Waverley, Haymarket and Edinburgh Park to Linlithgow, where trains will terminate.
Timetables between the capital and Glasgow Central will be unaffected, but rail bosses say overcrowding is possible at peak times, with passengers warned that they might not be able to board the first train arriving at their platform due to the volume of traffic.