SCOTRAIL HAVE MOVED to dismiss claims that upgraded trains in use on lines in the north of Scotland would be ‘poached’ for the new Scottish Borders rail line opening later this year.
Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant yesterday expressed her concerns over reports that upgrades of the latest Class 158 trains being used out of Inverness would be shifted for the new line linking Edinburgh to the Borders from September.
The MSP said it would be “unfair” if rail passengers in the north of the country, who had already waited a long time for upgraded train carriages, would lose them to “pander to those in the Borders”.
However, following appearance of the fears on insideMoray yesterday, a spokesman for Abellio ScotRail insisted that there was no plans to switch trains to south, saying that claims poorer quality trains would be used on Highland routes because of the new line were “incorrect”.
A spokesman for the national rail carrier said: “ScotRail has 48 Class 158s in all and, as part of a refurbishment process, they will now receive a new look.
“They will receive a refurbished interior, including seat covers, carpets, finishes, and toilets.
“There will also be passenger sockets, new CCTV and additional facilities for travellers with restricted mobility. The trains will also get the new ‘Saltire’ exterior livery.
“ScotRail’s Inverness depot holds 25 Class 158s – and these are scheduled to be refurbished first. It is expected that 10 or so refurbished sets will be operating on the Far North Line by next summer – and that all 25 will be completed within one year.”
The ScotRail statement was welcomed by the MSP who said: “There had been major concern over the potential loss of Class 158 rolling stock from the Highlands to other parts of Scotland, in particular to the newly established borders railway line.
“The news that the Highland rolling stock will be retained, and is due to be upgraded and refurbished in the near future, will be a major relief for the many rail users and campaigners who had contacted me over the past week with concerns over what impact the opening of the Borders railway would have on our Highland based trains.”