Queen’s steam train at the centre of a big stink


THE steam train which carried the Queen on the inaugural trip on the Borders Railway has caused a stink – after revelations that it has been dumping human waste on the tracks.

The Union of South Africa transported the Queen to the Borders along the new £294m line after an opening ceremony earlier this year.

Since then it has carried 6,500 railway enthusiasts and day-trippers on three return journeys a week up and down the new line between Tweedbank and the capital.

But now railway workers have spoken out – saying they have had to clear raw sewage dumped on the lines by the train.

The Union of South Africa (credit: CrossHouses)
The Union of South Africa (credit: CrossHouses)


Rail workers have had to clean the sewage from the line, and perform repairs on sewage-covered parts of the track since the Queen’s inaugural visit on September 9.

Michael Hogg, of the RMT rail union, said it was horrifying that rail workers were expected to deal with human excrement.

He said: “It’s diabolical that in this day and age people have to put up with these kind of working conditions.

“Our members who have to change rail sleepers and maintain the rails are having to do so while dealing with raw sewage that’s been dumped on the tracks from this steam train’s rolling stock.

“It’s bad enough having human waste on the tracks, but you’re having workers stand back for a passing train and be sprayed with raw sewage.

“We’re talking about having people possibly being exposed to harmful bacteria that could cause illness and disease, such as hepatitis C.

“We appreciate that these team rail trips are very, very popular and are likely to continue, but we can’t accept the use of old rolling stock which fails to prevent waste ending up on the tracks.

“It’s disgusting and it’s just not acceptable.”

Diesel trains running on the regular Borders service for commuters collect human waste on board to be dealt with later.

But the older carriages used to carry travellers on the vintage 1937 Union of South Africa skirt the health and safety rules that apply to newer models.

ScotRail have confirmed that the steam train toilets do dump waste on the tracks.

But they say that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have given special permission for the steam trains to empty toilets onto the line between stations.

Whilst the train is stopped at stations the toilets are locked.

A spokeswoman for ScotRail Alliance said: “The line has been closely monitored and, now that the last steam train has run on the line, our specialist team will carry out a full track clean.

The Union of South Africa arrived on the Borders Railway on September 9.

After the Queen opened the new line – on the same day she became Britain’s longest reigning monarch – the locomotive took her and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, from Waverley to Tweedbank station.

The Union of South Africa’s stint on the line finished on Sunday – but its popularity with railway enthusiasts strongly suggests it will make further trips on the line.