A new ‘age of the train’ began in Aberdeen at 12.55pm today as passengers boarded ScotRail’s new high-speed service for the first time.
The Edinburgh-bound Inter7City cost around £2m to upgrade and offers passengers more seats, more luggage space, more plug sockets as well as a hot food for the first time on a ScotRail train.
Journey times between Aberdeen and Edinburgh will ultimately br reduced by 10 minutes on the new service.
In First Class, leather airline seats, USB charging points and responsive LED lighting set the tone with the train offering a journey that is noticeably smoother and quieter.
The Aberdeen to Edinburgh train will go into service for the public on Monday and is the first of 26 that will connect Scotland’s cities by December 2019.
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It is hoped the new high-speed trains - which are upgrades of the old InterCity 125 classic - will encourage commuters to leave their cars behind and draw more tourists onto the railway.
Ann Glen, railway expert and author, was one of the passengers invited to travel on the first Inter7City.
She added: “This is raising the game to a whole new level of travel in Scotland on the railway, no doubt about it, and it is long overdue.”
She said an upgrade of the trains on the Edinburgh to Aberdeen route had been “desperately” needed.
“I have travelled on the route and even when I had a booked seat it was quite hard to apprise the individuals who were occupying the booked seats out of the seats because they knew when they did that they would be standing.”
The reconditioned high-speed trains that will form the new Inter-City service were built up to 40 years ago and were last used by Great Western Railways before undergoing refurbishment.
Ms Glen added: “We looked forward to them coming on this route for a very long time.”
She said they would “undoubtedly” make train travel through Scotland more enjoyable.
“There have been endless problems through the carriages with accommodation of bicycles and luggage and the fact that the seats have not been conducive to a comfortable journey.
“I recently travelled back from Perth to Glasgow and I sat in the vestibule on the perch for the whole way,” Ms Glen added.
The train will increase seat numbers by 33 per cent with the Inter7City made up of four to five carriages.
It will travel at 100mph in accordance with Scotland’s line capabilities with hopes to increase speeds to around 110mph in the future.
Alex Hynes, managing director of ScotRail Alliance, said he was proud to introduce the train to service.
He said: “This is another major milestone in our plan to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.
“Our Inter7City service will provide more seats, better services, and more comfortable journeys for our customers.
“The investment we are making in these iconic trains is a clear sign of the ScotRail Alliance’s commitment to building a bigger and better railway for the whole of Scotland.”
“This is going to be great for commuters who want more seats, it is going to be great for business travellers who want an inter city-style product to enable them to get out of their cars and onto the railway and is going to be great for tourists and the visitor economy.
“Tourism is booming in Scotland and we have provided an iconic high-speed train, which has been tartan-ed up to trade on our wonderful Scottish-ness.
“We needed more seats, we needed more capacity. Every time I travelled between Edinburgh and the Highlands and the North East, the trains were pretty full.
“We needed to cut journey time . Those three-car diesel trains that we currently operate were not designed for train journeys for three to four hours. We wanted to give our customers an inter-city train, a really top quality product.”
The 40-year-old trains should have started on routes such as Aberdeen to Edinburgh in May.
Mr Hynes earlier described the delivery of the refurbishment by firm Wabtec as “dreadful”.
Today, he said: “We have been disappointed with Wabtec’s delivery.
“They know that, they really do. We are putting a lot of pressure on Wabtec because we need these trains to deliver our promises to customers.
“It has been very difficult, and very challenging, there has been changes in personnel at their end.
“What matters is that we work with Angel Trains, who own the stock, and Wabtec to get as many of these trains in traffic as soon as we can.
“I think as soon as customers see what we have done here., I think they will be craving for more.”
He said more modifications were to come to the stock, including coverting spaces behind the power cars to make room for more bicycles.
Mr Hynes added: “We are working night and day to complete the refurbishment as quickly as possible.”