Travel woes loom as train fleet struggles with weather


TRAIN bosses are warning commuters they face potentially weeks more of travel misery on the lines as snow strikes Scotland again this week.

ScotRail has admitted it is still trying to get its fleet of trains up to strength after the last Arctic blast crippled services.

And that will mean fewer carriages, cancellations and other disruption to the already under pressure rail network.

Staff are already said to be working flat out to carry out repairs and safety checks caused by the last snow and ice.

And with gales of up to 50mph predicted in the coming days accompanied by snow and temperatures as low as minus, their workload looks certain to increase on top of the current backlog.

The situation is so serious bosses are holding daily meetings and reporting to the Scottish Government.

They are feeding in all information as part of its multi-agency response plan which will be the first real test of new Scottish Transport Secretary Keith Brown following the resignation of Stewart Stevenson.

Steve Montgomery, ScotRail’s managing director, said it was planned to run as many services as possible.

But he warned that the train fleet was not yet at full strength.

He said: “We’re working to get trains back into service following damage caused by frozen blocks of packed snow and ice falling from undercarriages and bouncing back upwards.

“This involves repairs and comprehensive safety checks. In the meantime, some trains will have fewer carriages.

“We apologise for any inconvenience and thank customers for their patience and understanding during these conditions.”

Trains were damaged by by frozen blocks of packed snow and ice falling from undercarriages and bouncing back upwards.

ScotRail said remedial work involved repairs and comprehensive safety checks to scores of trains.

The operator said it had doubled the high pressure hot water lances in depots to help remove compacted ice from trains, and boosting depot heating

It is also trialling skirts and hot air blowers fitted on trains in a bid to remove up to three tonnes of snow and ice from the undercarriages more quickly.

ScotRail said it had also hired more than 60 contractors to help keep stations clear of snow and work on trains overnight.

Meanwhile, on the roads, nearly half of all drivers have done nothing to prepare for the onset of winter weather, according to a new poll.

The AA said some 44 per cent of motorists quizzed have so far failed to do anything as basic as packing a shovel.

With winter expected to strike with a vengeance again from tomorrow (Thurs), AA President Edmund King said they were worried what could happen.

He said: “We are concerned that some drivers have not made enough preparations for the severe winter conditions on the roads.

“With good reason Scottish drivers have done most to prepare.

“Those preparations were warranted.

“Many drivers have experienced horrendous conditions on the roads in Scotland already this winter.”

However he warned some people may be taking good road conditions from granted.

He said: “A small majority think that highway authorities are better prepared than last year to grit the roads.

“But a large proportion of drivers are still cynical about this.  Highway authorities will be under great pressure as their dwindling salt supplies are stretched as the arctic spell continues.“

A poll carried out for them by Populus received 15,927 responses between 26 November and 3 December 2010 of AA members.

More than half (51percent) expect road gritting to be better than last year.

Forty one percent expect gritting to be about the same and seven percent expect it to be worse.

Those areas that have already experienced the worst snow such as the North East (10percent) and Scotland (nine percent) were more likely to think gritting would be worse.

Forty four percent of drivers have done nothing to prepare for severe conditions on the roads this winter.

Of those that have prepared for winter, some 39 percent put a shovel, blankets etc in the car, just 19 percent have bought a sturdy pair of walking boots and only six percent have made arrangements to stay with friends/colleagues if the weather suddenly turns bad.

Male drivers (45percent) and those aged 25-34 (51percent) were most likely to have done nothing to prepare, according to the poll.

Those over 65 were least likely to have done nothing (40percent).

Drivers in Northern Ireland were least likely to have put a shovel in the car (26 percent) but Scots were most likely to have packed one away (49 percent).

Those driving in London (53 percent) were most likely to be ill prepared and done nothing.