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Martha Fairlie reports
"The turbostars were meant to be the trains for the new millennium"
 real 56k

Monday, 11 December, 2000, 20:00 GMT
Flagship trains add to rail woes
The turbostar promised faster services
The unreliability of a 72m fleet of new trains has contributed to the increased delays and overcrowding on the Scottish network, according to ScotRail.

The train company expressed disappointment at the high number of problems with the turbostar, which came into operation last year.

It now plans to hold an urgent meeting with the manufacturers next week.

The flagship fleet, made up of 24 trains, was brought in to serve the routes between Glasgow and Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

ScotRail train
Older trains have been brought back into service
But ScotRail said it has experienced far more mechanical and electrical failures than should have been expected, and at times as few as 17 have been in operation.

Rail services have been getting back to normal on some lines after weeks of speed restrictions, in the wake of the Hatfield crash.

But ScotRail said the catalogue of problems with the turbostar, which has included gearbox failure and mechanical difficulties with automatic doors, has made recent problems worse.

The rail company has even resorted to taking older trains off other lines to replace the broken-down 100mph turbostars, leading to delays elsewhere on the network.

Alastair McPherson, managing director of ScotRail, admitted: "We were experiencing repeated problems to do with the mechanics of the engine.

"Progress hasn't been made on that matter so we have called Adtranz to a meeting to thrash out the problem."

High breakdown rate

A ScotRail spokesman confirmed that representatives of the Derby-based manufacturer Adtranz were expected to visit Glasgow next week to examine the situation and discuss "urgent" modifications.

On average the trains were breaking down at a rate of one train every 3,000 miles, compared with the anticipated figure of 18,000 miles.

Earlier this month police were called to Linlithgow railway station as angry commuters attempted to board a packed peak-time train, which had been reduced from six carriages to two after two turbostars broke down.

The trains were said to be popular with passengers and train crews because of their modern facilities.

Teething problems

However, operators have expressed concern that their alleged unreliability could lead to heavy fines and further erosion of public confidence.

A spokesperson for Adtranz acknowledged that there had been a number of teething problems since the introduction of the new fleet of trains.

"However, we have been working extremely hard to solve the problems, with some success," said the company.

"Our project team is actively working with our suppliers to increase performance as speedily as possible, keeping inconvenience to passengers to a minimum."

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See also:

11 Dec 00 | Scotland
Rail company steps up services
23 Nov 00 | Scotland
Rail firms set target
22 Nov 00 | Scotland
Scottish rail payback plan
18 Aug 99 | Scotland
ScotRail on the right track
11 Feb 99 | UK
Train firms under fire
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