Back on track

Stir­ling-Lon­don rail ser­vice re­sumes

Stirling Observer - - FRONT PAGE - John Row­botham

A di­rect, early-morn­ing train from Stir­ling to Lon­don has been re­in­stated — four months after it was ‘tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended’.

Oper­a­tors LNER re-in­tro­duced the daily and di­rect week­day ser­vice this week with the prom­ise that the re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues which had be­dev­illed its op­er­a­tion had now been ironed out.

The ser­vice is sched­uled to leave Stir­ling at 5.26am and is due in Lon­don Kings Cross at 10.49 am.

LNER took over op­er­a­tion of the east­coast main line from Vir­gin in June and made the de­ci­sion to with­draw the ser­vice in Au­gust.

Ex­plain­ing the move, bosses blamed the re­moval from ser­vice of one of its trains which had been dam­aged dur­ing the ‘beast from east’ storm last win­ter.

LNER was also fac­ing re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues be­cause of its ag­ing fleet and it said the hot sum­mer weather had in­creased the level of fail­ures of both track and train, in­clud­ing ma­jor in­ci­dents such as the loss of all sig­nalling around York and Leeds on July 27.

Dis­rup­tion caused by timetable change for other oper­a­tors at key lo­ca­tions such as Kings Cross and Leeds had made it dif­fi­cult for LNER to ar­rive on time, the com­pany said.

A LNER spokesper­son said re­li­a­bil­ity prob­lems should be eased next year when new hi-tech Azuma trains are added to its fleet.

“Since Au­gust, we have im­ple­mented a com­pre­hen­sive pro­gramme of re­li­a­bil­ity im­prove­ments to our ex­ist­ing trains and re­cruited more en­gi­neers ded­i­cated to elim­i­nat­ing de­fects,” the spokesman added.

“The dam­aged train has also been re­cently rein­tro­duced into ser­vice after un­der­go­ing sig­nif­i­cant re­pairs.”

Fol­low­ing the de­ci­sion to sus­pend the ser­vice, Stir­ling MP Stephen Kerr and MSP Bruce Craw­ford wrote to LNER slam­ming the move as un­ac­cept­able and point­ing out how the trains were val­ued, par­tic­u­larly by the area’s busi­ness com­mu­nity.

Man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of LNER David Horne said he had been work­ing closely with Mr Kerr on the mat­ter and added: “We have pri­ori­tised the re­in­state­ment of these ser­vices and hope this move re­as­sures our cus­tomers that we are fully com­mit­ted to play­ing our part in con­nect­ing this im­por­tant re­gion of Scot­land to the rest of the east coast main­line.”

Mr Kerr added: “I was de­lighted to re­ceive the news that these im­por­tant ser­vices are be­ing re­in­stated.

Through the reg­u­lar con­tact I have had with LNER I know they have worked re­ally hard to ad­dress the prob­lems that caused the sus­pen­sion.”

The then Trans­port Min­is­ter Derek Mackay and other dig­ni­taries were at Stir­ling Rail­way Sta­tion for the launch of the ser­vice by Vir­gin Trains in De­cem­ber, 2015.

It was hoped the week­day ser­vice would cut rail jour­ney times to the UK cap­i­tal by 46 min­utes and en­sure pas­sen­gers didn’t have to change trains.

Launch Mr Mackay cuts the tape in 2015 to launch the ser­vice watched by (left) coun­cil­lors Jo­hanna Boyd and Craig Mar­tin, Vir­gin Trains’War­rick Dent and John McNally, MP for Falkirk

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