Edinburgh-Glasgow rail main line faces two-month flood damage closure

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The main line between Edinburgh and Glasgow could be closed for two months because of flood damage, Network Rail revealed today.

Engineers have been working round the clock to repair extensive damage near Polmont caused by flooding from the Union Canal .

A 300m section of the track was engulfed by “unprecedented” rainfall which saw thousands of gallons of water cascading from the damaged canal last Wednesday.

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Part of it were washed away along with overhead electrification masts, and embankments undermined.

The flood-damaged track at Polmont. Picture: Network Rail.The flood-damaged track at Polmont. Picture: Network Rail.
The flood-damaged track at Polmont. Picture: Network Rail.

Fish rescued

Dozens of uprooted trees were left strewn across the tracks during flooding which continued for two days.

Ballast supporting more than 1km of the track will have to be replaced.

Thousands of fish have been rescued and returned to the canal.

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An aerial view of the damage. Picture: Network Rail.An aerial view of the damage. Picture: Network Rail.
An aerial view of the damage. Picture: Network Rail.

Trains normally operate on the line between Scotland’s biggest cities via Falkirk High every 15 minutes in each direction.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “So extensive was the flood damage, initial assessments are indicating that it could take two months to reinstate the line, though engineers will continue to investigate the extent of the damage before confirming a final estimate for restoring service.”

The damage was caused by a 30-metre section of the Union canal at Muiravonside being breached, with water cascading down a slope onto the line.

‘Something I have never witnessed’

Flooding washed away a large section of track. Picture: Network Rail.Flooding washed away a large section of track. Picture: Network Rail.
Flooding washed away a large section of track. Picture: Network Rail.

Network Rail route delivery director Kevin McClelland said: “We are working with our asset engineers and specialist contractors to assess the scale and extent of the damage and what we will need to do to safely reinstate the railway.

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“It is remarkable to see the destructive power of the flowing water.

"The extent of the flooding and the scale of the damage is something I have never witnessed before on the railway.

"We are grateful to our colleagues at Scottish Canals for their prompt response in dealing with this unprecedented incident.

“We are working as quickly as possible to complete these repairs and to get passengers back onto the railway."

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Passengers can still travel between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street on a secondary line via Bathgate and Airdrie.

ScotRail said its services between Queen Street and Edinburgh via Falkirk High would be diverted to Falkirk Grahamston, calling at Croy and Camelon.

Trains on the Queen Street-Edinburgh via Falkirk Grahamston service run between Queen Street and Falkirk Grahamston only, and services between Edinburgh and Dunblane are suspended.

The operator said a replacement bus shuttle service is in place between Edinburgh Park and Falkirk Grahamston.

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Passengers could also use their tickets on Edinburgh Trams between Edinburgh, Haymarket and Edinburgh Park/Edinburgh Gateway, Stagecoach East buses between Stirling and Dunblane, and First buses between between Stirling and Dunblane.

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “Last week’s heavy rain and flooding has had a severe impact on the main line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, where services are expected to be disrupted for a number of weeks.

“We’ve arranged replacement buses to keep people moving, and customers travelling end to end between Glasgow and Edinburgh should use services via Glasgow Queen Street low level or Shotts.”

Scottish Greens transport spokesperson John Finnie said: “The Scottish Government must finally take the threats posed by the climate crisis to Scotland’s transport infrastructure seriously.

‘Robust plan needed’

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“In just the last week, we’ve seen landslips in Aberdeenshire leading to an awful rail tragedy, widespread flooding across the country leading to significant rail closures and the Union Canal collapsing at Polmont leading to this huge problem on the Glasgow-Edinburgh rail line.

“We know Scotland will experience more severe weather in the coming years as the climate crisis takes grip, so it’s vital that the transport secretary [Michael Matheson] urgently puts in place a robust plan of action detailing exactly how he will protect and enhance Scotland’s rail network.

“It’s irresponsible of the Scottish Government to continue to commit billions to road expansion projects when Scotland’s existing transport infrastructure is being starved of the investment it requires.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: “As stated by Network Rail, the exact duration of these repairs is yet to be fully determined.

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"However, we are pressing Network Rail to ensure they are carried out as swiftly as is practicable and safe.

“Recent events are a sharp reminder of the need to adapt our transport network to the effects of severe weather.

"Climate change will increase both the intensity and frequency of storms, flooding and high winds.

"Regardless of the real progress being made in decarbonising the transport network, adaptation of existing vital infrastructure will still be essential.

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“A lot has been done but Transport Scotland has identified the need for climate change mitigation and adaptation as a central plank in the recently-published national transport strategy, which sets out the vison for the next decades."

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