Flying Scotsman trips reinstated - but answers demanded over '˜farce'

The Flying Scotsman locomotive's cancelled trips to the Borders and Fife have been reinstated for today after frantic behind-the-scenes work by Network Rail.

Saturday, 14th May 2016, 4:46 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th May 2016, 11:47 am
The Flying Scotsman crosses the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick-Upon-Tweed en route from York to Edinburgh Waverley. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Flying Scotsman crosses the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick-Upon-Tweed en route from York to Edinburgh Waverley. Picture: Ian Rutherford

News that its highly publicised trips south to Tweedbank and north across the Forth Bridge had been axed emerged late on Friday after the rail operator admitted it had not gauged whether the steam engine would fit along the line.

This is despite passengers having paid out £150 a head months in advance to promoter Steam Dreams for the pleasure of riding the iconic train on its first trip to Scotland in more than a decade following a multi-million refurbishment.

However, following howls of derision from members of the public, enthusiasts and politicians, Network Rail has since made checks to ensure the world’s most famous locomotive fits bridges and platforms on the routes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Transport minister Derek Mackay had demanded action from Network Rail after accusing the organisation of “appalling incompetence”.

The train pulled into Edinburgh Waverley from York last night and will continue to the Borders and Fife today – thousands are to line the route, with a host of events planned at the Borders line terminus at Tweedbank.

An industry source said: “It was a complete middle-management balls-up at Network Rail’s office in Milton Keynes. When ScotRail Alliance managing director Phil Verster found out at 5pm on Friday, he took charge of the situation.

“He contacted Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne and chairman Sir Peter Hendy, who between them got it sorted. Sir Peter was incandescent to hear what had happened.”

It is understood that potential problems with the locomotive fitting under bridges, such as near Dalmeny, have been solved by switching it to the other track where there is more room.

Speaking yesterday Steam Dreams chairman Marcus Robertson said: “It is hard to think of a more iconic Scottish sight than the Flying Scotsman on the masterpiece of engineering that is the Forth Bridge. Celebrating the recent reopening of the Borders Railway is the icing on the cake.

“This morning all looked lost but thanks to some old-fashioned hard work by Phil Verster and his team out on the track measuring the structures the loco passes through and over, everything should be as planned. Nearly 1,000 passengers should have a day to remember and Scotland can pay tribute to the world’s most famous locomotive.”

Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said yesterday: “Once the tours have been safely and successfully run, I will be instigating a full investigation into how this occurred.”

Built in Doncaster in 1923, the Flying Scotsman pulled the first train to break the 100mph barrier in 1934.