Rail improvement planned for 2018 will be delayed

The 800 million pound scheme is set to be delayed. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The 800 million pound scheme is set to be delayed. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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AN £800 million scheme to cut 10 minutes off the train trip between Edinburgh and Glasgow has been delayed by a year.

Network Rail has revealed its work to deliver a 42-minute journey on Scotland’s busiest railway line will not be finished by the target of December 2018. The first electric trains on the Edinburgh and Glasgow route were expected to come into operation later this year but slashing the 52-minute journey time is dependent on delayed engineering works along the line.

Instead, Network Rail has said journey time improvements will be “incremental” and a report from rail regulators states the 42-minute journey will come some time after March 2019.

Transport Scotland insisted it expects the journey time savings to be delivered by December next year. But an industry source said this is wholly unrealistic and December 2019 is far more likely.

This will be just before Glasgow’s revamped Queen Street Station opens – two years later than planned due to legislative wrangling.

Transport Scotland said it is still waiting for contractors to give an updated cost for the project but industry watchdogs revealed there were £60m of higher costs across the project and other electrification works last year.

Scottish Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby MSP said: “This is deeply disappointing news for tens of thousands of passengers. Commuters have put up with months of delays and disruption as part of this vital project to electrify 
the busiest route in Scotland. “We are lagging far behind other parts of the UK and the Continent, and missing the 2018 forecast would be a huge setback.”

The annual report on Scotland by industry watchdog the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) states that the delivery of a 42-minute journey time, with eight-car services, between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and an upgrade to Queen Street Station, is “at significant risk”.

The reduced journey times was meant to be in place by December 2018 and Queen Street was originally meant to be finished by March 2019. A ScotRail Alliance spokesman said: “The programme has been rescheduled due to the length of time for the Transport and Works Scotland process (which allows big projects to go ahead without the need for a Holyrood Bill) to conclude.

“Our new electric trains will begin operating between Edinburgh and Glasgow by December. Journey time improvements will be incremental with the [Queen Street] station redevelopment to be complete by March 2020.”