PASSENGERS on many ScotRail routes will be able to charge their mobile phones and laptops aboard trains for the first time thanks to a £14 million overhaul of carriages.
The first of the 40 refurbished diesel trains will run on the Borders Railway, which opens to the public on Sunday.
The rest will be upgraded at the rate of one a month, and operate on lines in the Central Belt, Highlands and North-East.
Other improvements on the two-carriage Class 158 diesel trains include better seats which are more closely aligned with windows, and more luggage and bike space. This is part of plans to make rail travel more appealing for tourists by maximising opportunities for panoramic views.
Lighting, carpets and toilets will also be revamped.
A total of 14 extra staff have been recruited for the work at Knorr-Bremse RailServices at Springburn in the north of Glasgow.
The trains will operate between Edinburgh and Fife, Perth, Dunblane and Glasgow Central via Shotts.
They will also run between Glasgow and Dunblane, Alloa, Falkirk Grahamston and Anniesland, and Inverness to Aberdeen, Kyle of Lochalsh and Wick.
Apart from those travelling first class, the only ScotRail passengers with access to sockets for charging their mobile devices have been those on Class 380 electric trains.
These mainly operate on lines between Glasgow, Ayrshire and Inverclyde, and between Edinburgh, North Berwick and Dunbar.
Viewing the first completed carriages yesterday, transport minister Derek Mackay said: “We are investing record amounts in Scotland’s railways and, with passenger numbers increasing by more than six million last year, these refurbished trains will further improve the travel experience.
“I am also particularly pleased that, in the process, Scottish jobs are being supported with these improvement works delivered by workers at Knorr-Bremse RailServices’ depot.
“Passengers will soon see more of these refurbished trains rolling out on routes all over Scotland and, fittingly, the first carriages off the production line will start their journey as part of the historic Borders Railway launch, with all the benefits that will bring for the Borders, Midlothian and Edinburgh economy.”
Robert Samson, passenger manager at watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers will be pleased to know their views, particularly on the inclusion of power sockets, have been taken into account.”
Rail consultant and author David Spaven said: “This is an important first step towards ScotRail gearing up properly for the tourist as well as domestic markets – and the refurbished 158s will be particularly welcome on the Borders Railway, where many folk will be new to train travel.
“I hope this upgrade will also be tackling the long-standing air conditioning problems which these units experience in hot weather.”
ScotRail Alliance managing director Phil Verster said: “Completing the first refurbishment is a big moment for this exciting project.
“We’ve listened to customers, and that feedback is reflected in the upgrades being made.
“Seats are better aligned alongside windows, interiors are brighter and more modern, and people can charge phones and laptops during their journeys.”