December 6th, 2017
Winter plans set out by ScotRail Alliance
The ScotRail Alliance has set out its winter weather plans, as Storm Caroline prepares to hit Scotland in the coming days.
Winter can have a significant impact on the railway, with its effects ranging from speed restrictions on exposed routes, to services being suspended due to avalanches.
Winter weather can impact the railway in the following ways:
- High winds can blow objects on to the line, meaning trains have to travel slower to ensure they can safely stop short of any obstructions.
- Points (movable sections of track, allowing trains to move from one line to another) can freeze up, preventing trains from accessing certain routes or platforms.
- Extremely low temperatures can sometimes prevent train carriages from attaching, leading to fewer carriages on services.
- Up to three tons of snow can accumulate on the underside of trains. In the past trains have been damaged by snow and ice falling from the undercarriage and bouncing back up. Trains have to be removed from service for safety checks when this happens.
- Heavy rain can cause flooding and landslips. When these occur, trains have to be stopped until the line has been cleared, and a thorough safety inspection of the track carried out.
To limit the impact of winter weather on its service, the ScotRail Alliance will take the following actions:
- Specialist meteorologists will map weather events as they approach, allowing us to deploy chainsaw teams and engineers to where they’re most likely to be needed.
- Teams will work to identify and remove any potentially dead and dangerous trees, which could be blown over the tracks, before high winds arrive.
- A helicopter fitted with thermal imaging equipment will be used to highlight areas to engineers where cold weather could cause problems.
- A £1 million ‘winter train’ will be used to defrost points and other key parts of the railway affected by snow or ice. The train, which will be used across Scotland, features hot air blowers and heat-lances, which are used to thaw critical infrastructure and allow staff to reopen the line quicker.
Ten snowplough trains will also be on standby.
- Engineers will be working 24/7 to prevent vulnerable infrastructure freezing in the first place, with some equipment being fitted with heaters.
- Maintenance depots are being fitted with heated polytunnels, high pressure hot water ‘jet washes’, and space heaters to reduce the time required to defrost trains, and get them back in service quicker.
If severe weather is expected, contingency timetables will be created and customers informed. ScotRail’s website and social media channels will have full details of any changes to the train service. A series of roadshows are also being held across the country to inform customers about what the ScotRail Alliance is doing to keep people on the move. The ScotRail Alliance will update customers later today with the expected impact of Storm Caroline.
ScotRail Alliance Infrastructure Director David Dickson said: “Winter is a particularly challenging time for the railway - snow and ice can damage trains, and can prevent the supporting infrastructure from working correctly.
“People know from their own lives the impact winter weather can have, and that applies even more so to the railway.
“That’s why we have invested in specialist equipment, so that when bad weather strikes we can keep our customers moving.
“Our staff will be working flat out, night and day, to get customers where they need to be, while ensuring that the safety of our customers and staff remains our number one priority.
“We’ll keep our customers up-to-date with the latest travel information on the ScotRail app, our website, and our Twitter feed.”
Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands said: “We are working closely with the ScotRail Alliance to ensure they are ready for the challenges winter will bring, including Storm Caroline. Passengers can be reassured every effort is being made to make Scotland’s railways as resilient as possible, from using technology to pinpoint potential problems to having snow ploughs at the ready.
“At the forefront of that effort are the scores of staff working round the clock in all kinds of challenging weather to keep trains moving. The ScotRail Alliance is doing all it can to minimise seasonal disruption as far as possible but some disruption is inevitable. We would ask passengers to play their part by checking all the available travel information in advance.”
October 28th, 2017
The South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership has donated £500 towards new flower tubs for stations across south west Scotland.
A cheque was handed over to Louis Wall of the South West Scotland Railway Adopters Group who have created and maintained flower displays and gardens at rail stations across the region on Friday, October 27th, 2017.
The presentation took place at Kilmarnock Station and was attended by SWSCRP Chief Executive Officer Dr Mhairi McKenna, SWSCRP Honorary President John Yellowlees, Board member Michael Liebisch and Mr and Mrs Wall.
John Yellowlees commented: “Louis' achievements never disappoint.
“Thanks to him, the South West has the finest station gardens in Scotland. Morale on the Stranraer line which might have collapsed following Stena's relocation is kept high by lovely floral displays.
“Ayr's flowerbeds are so good that they altered Michael Portillo's schedule. And the station gardens at Dumfries where ScotRail's MD has today announced extra trains present the town's best face and were the secret weapon in its recent successful bid for floral glory.
“So I am delighted that, having already recognised his contribution with honorary membership, the South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership are giving him this practical expression of their support for him and his hardworking team.”
October 27th, 2017
New services announced between Dumfries - Carlisle and Dumfries - Glasgow
ScotRail has announced an extra 10 new services per day between Dumfries and Carlisle and a new early morning train from Dumfries to Glasgow and a late evening service from Glasgow to Dumfries from December 10th, 2017.
The additional services between Dumfries and Carlisle will see close to an hourly service throughout the day with better connections for trains to and from London at Carlisle.
As of Sunday, December 10th, 2017, the timetable changes are:
Five additional Monday to Friday services from Dumfries to Carlisle and return:
Departing Dumfries at 07:13, 11:02, 13:04, 16:02, 18:41
Departing Carlisle at 09:58, 12:20, 14:30, 17:27, 20:17
Monday to Saturday 06:20 Kilmarnock to Glasgow Central now starts at Dumfries, departing at 05:13.
Monday to Saturday 20:13 Glasgow Central to Kilmarnock is now extended to Dumfries.
The news was welcomed by the South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership.
ScotRail Alliance Managing Director Alex Hynes, said that the investment will mean more services and seats in the south of Scotland which will also help to grow the economy in this part of the country.
Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf, said: “These additional services being introduced will be welcomed by passengers in the South West of the country. By providing more services, seats, and improving connectivity, we can encourage more people onto trains.
“The near hourly service between Dumfries and Carlisle is designed to meet the demands of current and future growth, and comes following feedback from local user groups and transport partners.”
October 21st, 2017
CRP donates £500 to Station Gardeners Group
The South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership has agreed to donate £500 to the South West Railway Adopters Group towards 10 new flower tubs.
A cheque from the Partnership will be presented to award-winning gardener Louis Wall at Kilmarnock Station on Friday, October 27th.
Also present on the day will be the Partnership’s Honorary President, John Yellowlees.
“The Railway Adopters Group need to replace a number of the flower tubs at stations across south west Scotland including Kilmarnock, Dumfries and Stranraer. The Partnership is delighted to be able to support the work of the Railway Adopters Group who have planted beautiful flower displays at stations across the region for several years now,” commented SW Scotland CRP Chief Executive Dr Mhairi McKenna.
“These displays are much appreciated by the travelling public and have won various well-deserved awards and recognition.”
The SW Scotland CRP is one of seven Community Rail Partnerships in Scotland who help local communities become involved in shaping railways in their area.
September 12th, 2017
Official launch event held at Kilmarnock Station
Award-winning railway station gardener Louis Wall has been made an honorary lifetime member of the South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership in recognition of his work transforming local stations with imaginative and colourful plant displays.
Former External Relations Manager with First ScotRail, John Yellowlees MA(Hons)(Cantab), MPhil(Edin), FCILT, was also honoured at the Partnership’s launch event held in Kilmarnock on Monday, September 11th, when he became Honorary President in recognition of his support for railways in south west Scotland.
The launch event was attended by representatives of community groups, local authorities, other Community Rail Partnerships, Transport Scotland, councillors and MSPs.
The South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership which covers lines from Gretna Green to Stranraer via Kilmarnock and Ayr, came into being on May 31st, 2017 and, in common with other CRPs, is part of a government strategy supported by the rail industry to engage local people in the development and promotion of local and rural routes, services and stations.
Mr Wall and Mr Yellowlees were presented with certificates by the Partnership’s CEO Dr Mhairi McKenna.
“I am delighted to accept the invitation to be your Honorary President since I have always had a soft spot for the railways of south west Scotland and I look forward to supporting your work in promoting and developing their usefulness to the local community,” commented Mr Yellowlees.
Dr McKenna added: “We felt that it was entirely appropriate for us to recognise the outstanding contribution by both Mr Yellowlees and Mr Wall to the railways of south west Scotland in this way and are delighted that both accepted the awards.
“We very look forward to working with them as we reach out to the local community on a range of projects designed to improve rail services, facilities and bus connectivity to and from stations, “ she said.
Dr McKenna added: “We welcome any local group including community councils to become key partner organisations and we would also welcome interest from anyone who may be interested in becoming a member of the Board to get in touch.”
Dr Mhairi McKenna, CEO presents a lifetime member award to Mr Louis Wall.
Dr Mhairi McKenna, CEO presents an Honorary President award to Mr John Yellowlees.
August 23rd, 2017
ScotRail becomes best performing large train operator in the UK
ScotRail has become the best performing large train operator in the UK according to figures from the recent independent National Rail Passenger Survey, carried out by Transport Focus.
The survey revealed that nine out of ten customers are satisfied with ScotRail.
The average performance for the year to August 19th, 2017 – is at 90.9 per cent. This is ahead of the performance improvement plan target of 90.5 per cent and ahead of the other large operators in the UK.
Welcoming the news, ScotRail Alliance Managing Director Alex Hynes said: “We aren’t complacent. We’re working hard to build the best railway Scotland’s ever had. Our new and better trains will deliver faster journeys, more seats and better services for our customers.”
Other large operators in the UK are:
Northern – 90.7 per cent MAA
Southeastern – 87.2 per cent MAA
South West Trains – 86.5 per cent MAA (*Note – Operated by South Western Railway from August 20th 2017 onwards)
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) – 78.1 per cent MAA
August 4th 2017
Flexipass arrives on Glasgow to Stranraer route
ScotRail has announced new routes now offering Flexipass ticketing as Glasgow-Stranraer and Kilmarnock-Ayr-Girvan.
Flexipasses – where people buy 10 single tickets that can be used over one month from the first date of travel – offer the flexibility required by people who work irregular hours or shift patterns which mean that a season ticket is unsuitable for them.
Typically, a 10-journey Flexipass costs the same as nine single tickets.
Up until now, Flexipasses were only available as paper products. People can now buy their Flexipass at home, load them onto their smartcard and travel on 28 routes.
Changing how customers buy tickets and giving them flexibility is a major benefit offered by Smart ticketing. It has taken a huge infrastructure project involving eight suppliers delivering mobile device and back office upgrades to deliver this technology across the Scottish rail network. As a result, 60% of all ticket types will be available on Smart in 2017, signalling the move away from paper ticketing.
Popular off peak single, day and period returns are also available on the system and more customers are being encouraged to convert from traditional paper tickets to Smart.
A benefits package – offered in partnership with key high street brand names - where season ticket users can get a bit more value for money from their Smartcard journeys is also now in place.
The ScotRail Alliance’s Commercial Director Cathy Craig said: “These new smart Flexipasses are great news for the tens thousands of people who work shifts and irregular hours across Scotland. In the past people would have had to buy single tickets for each journey they made – or bought a season ticket that they didn’t get the best value from.
“Now they can load tickets on their smartcard and use them when they need to. It is a huge step forward in our efforts to transform the way people travel in Scotland.
“Our queue-busting Smart cards are now available for every route in Scotland and already thousands of people are enjoying hassle free travel through our stations. Over the course of the next few weeks we will be launching even more Smart products.
“With new trains on their way and stations being upgraded right across the country, this is a really exciting time for Scotland’s railway.”
July 29th 2017
Dumfries Bike n Go scheme abandoned
The Swestrans’ (The South West Scotland Transport Partnership) Dumfries ‘Bike n Go’ scheme has now been abandoned due to unsustainable costs, a large two-tier bike rack has been erected at Dumfries station. It’s under the canopy by the site of the old bay platform. A search for a use for the redundant Bike n Go bicycles and docking stations continues.
Nith Valley Line Planned service improvements
ScotRail have outlined the planned service improvements from the December 2017 timetable change on the Nith Valley Line.
To Glasgow there will be an early morning departure at 05.13, arriving Glasgow Central 07.10. There is an additional mid-evening return departing Glasgow at 20.17, arriving Dumfries at 21.58.
There will be five additional train pairs between Dumfries and Carlisle, departing Dumfries at 0713, 11.02, 13.14, 16.02 and 18.41 with returns at 09.58, 12.20, 14.30, 17.32 and 2017.
Future planning of rail services on the Nith Valley Line includes filling the three-hour gap in the morning between Dumfries and Glasgow, extending a Glasgow-Kilmarnock service at 18.13 or 18.43 to Dumfries and providing an approximately 08.00 arrival in Dumfries from both north and south. Some of these planned improvements will require further cascade of diesel rolling stock following central belt electrification.
Commemorative plaques unveiled
A commemorative plaque to ScotRail conductor Archie Glover aka “Big Archie” who passed away on 25th November 2016 has been erected at Dumfries station.
Another plaque, was unveiled at Stranraer in Match 2017 in memory of this CRP's company secretary James (Jim) McKenzie Wilson (b1951) who unexpectedly passed away in February.
Judges to view new artworks at Dumfries Station
Beautiful Scotland judges will arrive in Dumfries Station on August 10th to view recently unveiled paintings by artist Jo McSkimming.
The People’s Project is behind the introduction of these works. Mark Jardine from the Project said: “The station is quite remarkable in terms of its floral displays and The People’s Project has supported the work at the station last year and this.
We have put Dumfries into the Large Town Awards with Beautiful Scotland. Although there are fantastic floral displays in the town, another need is public art.”
Three main pieces or art have been created, one is the LNER locomotive 4472, “The Flying Scotsman”, the second Dumfries station in the inter-war years and thirdly a rural vision.
July 23rd, 2017
Ayr's iconic Station Hotel under threat
Ayr’s grand Station Hotel, a Listed Building dating from 1885, faces demolition unless at least £10m can be found to make the derelict building safe.
The iconic former hotel which has been empty for several years was bought by a Malaysian businessman for £750,000 in 2010 and has been placed on the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland.
Network Rail had to undertake emergency works to the railway side of the building which dominates the Station to protect the line.
There are calls for South Ayrshire Council to adopt the French Renaissance style hotel for offices, shops and cafes as well as council staff.
The imposing former Station Hotel overlooks the platforms.
July 18th, 2017
Disruption to Nith Valley Line Services
The line between Kilmarnock and Carlisle is closed until Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 for track renewal work. Buses are replacing train services between Kilmarnock and Carlisle during this period. Track renewal works will continue between Kilmarnock and Dumfries on Sunday, July 30th, 2017 and on the following Sundays: August 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th. Buses will replace trains between Kilmarnock and Dumfries on these days. ScotRail has also announced that early morning and late evening services will be affected by further track renewal work between Kilmarnock and Carlisle from Monday, August 28th and Friday, September 1st.
July 16th, 2017
Interviews for Company Secretary post to be held in early August
The application deadline for the salaried position of Company Secretary / Development Manager for the South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership has now passed and interviews will be held in early August. Applicants will be notified shortly. Partnership CEO Mhairi McKenna commented: “We are delighted at the level of interest we have received and the high calibre of the candidates. Based on this, we are confident that we will be able to make an appointment in August once all the candidates have been interviewed.”
July 6th, 2017
Community Rail Awards Photo Competition shortlist annouced
Shortlisted entries for this year's Train On-Line Community Rail Awards photo competition have been announced. This year's theme for entries was "The essence of community rail" and judges have shortlisted eight entries that capture what community rail is all about.
We're asking for you to vote for your favourite image from the shortlisted entries which can be found here. Take a look and vote for your favourite image!
The winning entry will be announced at the 2017 Community Rail Awards ceremony being held at The Roundhouse in Derby on October 3rd, 2017.
July 4th, 2017
Scotrail reveal weekly performance record for train times
Latest figures from The ScotRail Alliance show that 95.4 per cent of trains were recorded as being on time between June 25th and July 1st despite major upgrade works taking place on the network during the period.
This is the best performance since Abellio took control of the ScotRail franchise in April 2015.
Abellio set up the ScotRail Alliance - a formal agreement between Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail - on April 28th, 2017 in a bid to improve performance. The figure represents a two per cent increase on performance levels which are three per cent better than figures for England and Wales.
Perry Ramsey, Operations Director at The ScotRail Alliance said: “The fact that we have achieved our best weekly performance on record is good news for passengers across Scotland.”
Phil Verster, Managing Director said: "Our customers are already benefiting from our closer working relationship. This approach will continue as both organisations come together to work as one team. We will improve the infrastructure and roll out services and facilities that will make a real difference to people's journeys, such as smartcards, great value fares, integrated travel options and improved connections.
June 30th, 2017
Bid to reopen stations at Thornhill and Eastriggs receive a boost
A bid to reopen stations at Thornhill and Eastriggs which were closed in the 1960s under the Beeching Axe have cleared the first hurdle after the proposals received STAG (Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance) 1 approval, it was announced at a meeting of SWESTRANS (The South West of Scotland Transport Partnership) in Dumfries on June 30th, 2017.
A similar bid by the Beattock Station Action Group also received STAG 1 approval but the meeting heard that there may be insuffient funds to prepare the case for all 3 stations to go forward for STAG 2 approval in the current financial year. The SWESTRANS Board agreed that the bids by Thornhill and Eastriggs should take priority if this turned out to be the case but said that the Beattock bid would go forward next year. For all three stations the STAG 1 approvals are the first tick in the box towards getting approval for the stations to be reopened.
South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership launched
May 31st, 2017
The South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership has been launched to reflect our change of name and our new focus of delivering projects that benefit users of the railway and the wider community across Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway.
Under our previous name, our activities centred on the Ayr to Stranraer Line only. However, the Board proposed the change of name to reflect our objective of extending the Partnership’s activities to include the Ayr to Kilmarnock line, the Kilmarnock to Dumfries line and the Dumfries to Gretna Green line.
It was felt that the Partnership could better reflect the needs of the community and its railway with a more strategic approach across south-west Scotland.
It is proposed that the additional lines will be phased in to the Partnership’s activities in stages over the coming months.
Would you like to get involved? Find out how you can help the Partnership in your area.
Good reasons for visiting Stranraer
The following letter was sent to and published in The National in response to a previous article published on July 24th, 2017.
Letter to the Editor
Readers of Extract in Monday’s The National (July 24th, 2017) featuring Daniel Defoe’s Railway Journey from Glasgow to Stranraer gave a rather undeserved characterisation of the journey between Ayr and Stranraer and an even gloomier picture of Stranraer - enough to put anyone off from travelling there!
However, the railway route between Ayr and Stranraer is billed as “A Great Scenic Line” by ScotRail and with good reason as anyone other than author of Daniel Defoe’s Railway Journey Stuart Campbell will testify.
Spectacular sea views across to the famous Ailsa Craig from Girvan which boasts a unique Southern Railways style art deco station (the only one in Scotland) and the altogether quaint rural station at Barrhill which still uses the only Victorian block token machine still in use on the National Rail network are features that will delight railway enthusiasts and historians alike. For those less interested in the railway history and charm that ooozes from every pore of this beautiful line including the Kinclair Viaduct at Pinmore, there are some of the most stunning views to be seen in Scotland including the moors between Barrhill and Stranraer, unflatteringly described as ‘bleak’ by Mr Campbell who compared them to the Falklands, but which have a stunning beauty of their own.
Mr Campbell’s description of Stranraer itself was also more than a little unfair. True, the much heralded Waterfront Development on the site of the old Stena ferry terminal has yet to be seen anytime soon, but a short distance from Stranraer Station, Britain’s oldest working harbour station, is Agnew Park overlooking a yacht marina, which not only offers a great day out for the whole family with its own miniature railway, boating lake with island on which is a children’s sand play area including a digger and pirate ship, and adventure playground and peddle carts not to mention the very fine Driftwood Restaurant one of several excellent restaurants to be found in Stranraer including the one at The Craignelder Hotel.
Mr Campbell could also have visited the Castle of St John and, depending on the time of day, there may have been something on at The Ryan Centre which reguarly hosts a wide range of musical concerts from Scottish Opera performing highlights from Gilbert and Sullivan to the 60s band, The Zombies.
We in Scotland love to characterise our weather as always wet and it may well have been ‘pishing’ in Stranraer the day Mr Campbell came to visit, but it’s not always raining. In fact, it rains less than in Fort William and about the same as Aviemore but is anyone going to stop going there? Of course not.
I haven’t mentioned the plethora of very fine gardens including the Royal Botanic Gardens at nearby Port Logan, the ruggedly beautiful Mull of Galloway which is Scotland’s Land’s End, the Galloway Forest Park which is an internationally recognised Dark Skies Park and many other attractions to boot.
Anyone considering visiting this beautiful part of Scotland really should. There are several sources of information including our own website: swscotlandcrp.org with information about train travel on this line.
South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership, Girvan Railway Station, Vicarton Street, Girvan, KA26 9JF.
© South West Scotland Community Rail Partnership, Girvan Railway Station, Vicarton Street, Girvan, KA26 9JF
Company No: SC460916 | Scottish Charity No: SC039478