Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Now We Proceed to the Banks of the Tweed (1)

Glasgow to Edinburgh
Dateline Saturday 27th April
While Mrs fbb was enjoying her prayer and bible study "event" in Inverurie, fbb, having completed his McGills bus tour**, set out to "do" the Borders Railway.

One thing has characterised the rail system in Scotland over the last 40 years or so and that is growth. After the low point of the Beeching promoted closures, various brands and style of Scottish government (small g) have been positive about trains. (click to enlarge the map below)
It is well within fbb's memory that there were just two routes between Glasgow and the capital. The fast route was via Falkirk High ...
... shown here as an addendum to the greater Glasgow area network. This line, now electrified, has a train every 15 minutes taking an average of 50 minutes for the journey.
The other route was slow and grinding via Shotts.
As a nostalgic aside, old folks will remember the main 405 line TV transmitter for central Scotland was at Kirk o' Shotts. It is still there! - close by the M8 ...
... only a mile or two away from the railway. The Shotts line once boasted (?) only an all-stops hourly service of DMUs but this has recently been augmented by an extra "fast" train every hour ...
... taking just over the hour for the end to end run. From May this year electric trains will take over running under newly installed overhead.

In the early days of fbb's "relationship" he insisted that the two lovers took a train to Cumbernauld, a new town only half-heartedly served by train. You took a Glasgow "blue train" to Springburn and changed to a DMU - hardly an encouragement to rail use.
Later the trackwork at Cowlairs was jiggled to give a through service from Glasgow Queen Street.
That service now extends to Edinburgh via Larbert and Falkirk Grahamston and it too is electrified with trains about every 30 minutes.
It takes roughly an hour and fifteen minutes.

The biggest infrastructure project, however, was re-opening the link between Airdrie and Bathgate ...
... replacing track long since removed. This carries a train every 15 minutes incorporated into the dense and complex North Clyde network ...
... electric, of course! This time a speedy 70 minutes.

There is a fifth route and which is, in some senses, the oddest creation. It came to the public's attention when the privatised G N E R extended some of its traditional Kings Cross to Edinburgh trains to Glasgow via Carstairs.
In one of the many "involvements" of the Department for Transport (DaFT) this extension was transferred (mostly) to Crosscountry. The trains appear on an odd Scotrail timetable leaflet which fbb nearly missed as he prepared this blog.
Because a couple of trains each day run through Edinburgh to North Berwick, conventional (and silly!) railway timetable etiquette requires the two separate services to appear on one leaflet. Bring in "main line" trains that stop at Dunbar and you have an unnecessarily complex presentation.
To the "inter city" journeys, Scotrail adds an approximately two hourly local train calling at selected stations to Carstairs then Haymarket and Edinburgh. Electric - of course, and taking one hour and twenty minutes.

Having arrived at Glasgow Central from Largs and well aware (ouch, groan, hobble) of his troublesome plantar fascia, he decided to cross to Edinburgh from Central rather than using the quicker route from Queens Street. When you add in the walk (ouch again) or the inter station bus, the slower "fast" trains from Central are not significantly slower.

A Transpennine Express (that hasn't transed any bit of Pennine) disgorged a significant load upon arrival in Platform 1.
This relatively new service (in railway terms!) now carries substantial loads between Manchester and Glasgow or Edinburgh.

But your adventurous and pained traveller boarded the 1100 to Penzance from nearby platform 4.
The five car train was fairly full on leaving Glasgow and, yet again, the electronic reservations system was busted, leading to the inevitable gritted-teeth chaos as harassed passengers fought tooth and claw to claim their rights to pre-booked posterial positioning.
Poor. On departure from Motherwell all five coaches had standees; and the vestibules were full of "youff" ensconced on the comfortable cross country floor. They had probably shelled out full price and found all seats occupied by pre-booked cheapo fare payers!

Welcome to the unjust seat booking system!

The gauleiter guard then welcomed the crowds with a long and cheery list of tickets that you could not use on the train. Elderly ladies swooned in fear at the possible punishments that might ensue if they had transgressed so heinously.

Welcome to the UK's helpful ticketing system.

For unexplained reasons the Voyager was seven minutes late into Edinburgh, but plenty of time for fbb to find his next train.

For the record, the return to Glasgow was via the Shotts line and an all-stops train allowed fbb to observe the massive infrastructure improvements that are accompanying electrification.

Most noticeable are the lifts that being installed at many stations.
They come as a kit (in a large plastic bag with a tube of glue?) for assembly on site.

Then there is the surprise development of Breich station. It has, for some time, been a contender for the least used station in the UK with just a nominal journey or two.
It used to be quite a pretty little set-up ...
... with a station building and general purpose hut and some well-tended shrubbery in a garden on the to Edinburgh platform. In recent years it has only been blessed with a couple of huts, the footbridge and a streetlamp or two.
Quite why it was ever built is not clear as there was nothing there; the housing came later ...
... and took its name from the station rather than vice versa. Breich Water is the stream at Breich Bridge and that's where the name came from! As part of the electrification plans, closure was proposed but in the end it was reprieved and from May will have an hourly train as part of the all-stops service.

The whole station has been completely rebuilt ...
... as has the road overbridge.
The lights are not for the bridge but for the A71 crossroads (see map extract). No kit-built footbridge, however, access is via the new road bridge.

The impression of this line, which you would be forgiven for regarding as a railway backwater, is that it has a bright and busy future after substantial renewal. Maybe Breich will now attract more than a handful of passengers each day!

** Completed the tour; but still a bit more of a blog to come.

Tomorrow, at last, fbb rides to Tweedbank.

 Next Borders Railway blog : Thursday 2nd May 

No comments:

Post a Comment