West Highland Line plan for Swiss-style trains unveiled

Scotrail and Transport Scotland are considering recreating the glass-walled and canopied trains on the West Highland Line (WHL) which runs from Glasgow to Mallaig and made popular in the Harry Potter films.

Transport Scotland confirmed it is one of five options being considered as part of plans to decarbonise the country’s rail network by 2035.


Around 65% of the Scotrail fleet, including diesel trains on the WHL, will need to be replaced by greener models such as electric, battery and green hydrogen by 2035.

The route, which leads to Britain’s highest railway station at Corrour, has twice been voted the world’s busiest train route.

But while the scenery may be spectacular, there have long been concerns that the service isn’t getting the investment it deserves, despite attracting hordes of tourists each year.

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Alex Hynes, chief executive of Scotland’s Railway, which owns ScotRail and track owner Network Rail Scotland, said there was a “huge opportunity” to capitalize on the WHL’s popularity.


Speaking at a rail conference in Glasgow, he said passengers were willing to pay a premium to travel on such trains, which could also be used on the Thurso-Wick Far North Line.

He said: “We hope to move towards procuring battery electric trains in the coming months.

“Take the West Highland Line and the Far North Line, which have diesel trains – we need to decarbonize them. We don’t yet know how we’re going to do that – electrification or maybe hydrogen.


“But when we replace those trains, wouldn’t it be nice to buy some ‘quaint trains’.”

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Of the current fleet of 1037 passenger cars, 388 have been converted to more environmentally friendly models. The main goal is to electrify the network and, where this is not possible, to switch to battery-electric and hydrogen-powered trains that are better suited to rural routes.

Hydrogen gas is stored in tanks on the train’s roof. It reacts with oxygen in fuel cells and creates electricity that powers the wheels. It has the same performance as diesel, but its only exhaust fumes are water and steam.

Train manufacturer Alstom said such trains are becoming increasingly popular and often include more legroom and premium catering as well.

Interviewed by Scotland on SundayMr Hynes said he would be very supportive of funding the vehicles.

He said: “People are willing to pay a premium for panoramic trains with glazed body sides. We need to find a business model to tap into this market, especially between April and October.


“I think scenic trains are a very good idea for the north of Scotland – I would be very keen to buy them as I think they are of tremendous value.

“Scotland has some of the most beautiful rail routes in the world and I believe the opportunity to see the countryside on a scenic train would be a huge achievement. I would support you very much with the financing.”

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Plans were discussed last year to add more stations to the WHL to ease Fort William congestion and “exploit undeveloped tourism.”

A feasibility study proposes adding two new stations, one providing access to the Nevis Range ski area and another at Lochy Bridge for pupils traveling to Lochaber High School, which would also create another route to Britain’s highest mountain.

Frank Roach, partnerships manager at Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS), who commissioned the study, said the plan aims to build on the premise of Fort William as a “rail vacation experience.”

He said: “We want to offer a lot of opportunities for people who are mainly visitors to the area.

“Generally they just add to congestion, so they try to identify trips that can be made, which they’ll probably make anyway – like to Ben Nevis for example – but actually encourage them to take a train and go to the Hill.” to walk instead of just driving to the parking lot.”

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/23364133.west-highland-line-plan-swiss-style-trains-unveiled/?ref=rss West Highland Line plan for Swiss-style trains unveiled

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