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Scotland

New trains lead to turbo trouble
By BBC Scotland Transport Correspondent

The Scottish travelling public has enjoyed relatively good services since privatisation but there are areas of serious complaint and, despite promises from ScotRail, some doubts over how quickly matters will improve.

ScotRail runs by far the majority of services in Scotland. It was the last of the franchises to be awarded, receiving subsidy from the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority and Strathclyde Passenger Transport of 280m reducing to 202m annually by the end of the franchise period in 2004.

It has seen a 10% increase in "passenger journeys" since 1997 and done very well on reliability and punctuality - consistently near the top of the list.

Trains held up

It introduced the biggest timetable changes for 20 years in September with services every 15 minutes between Edinburgh and Glasgow , featuring new Turbostar trains. But only two out of nine of the trains arrived from the manufacturer in time, while staff shortages meant other parts of the network suffered as Scotrail concentrated all its resources on keeping this new, high profile service going.

The situation is due to improve from Monday 29 November and Fife commuters will be watching closely to see what happens. They have felt particularly hard done by and been campaigning for change.

Meanwhile, there are question marks over how quickly other improvements will be made. For example, new trains for Ayrshire (the Junipers) have been delayed. Eighteen of them should have been in service from January with a further 22 to follow. However, only two have been delivered and they are still being tested. ScotRail has no idea when it will be able to bring in the full fleet. That means other parts of the network, such as the Edinburgh - N Berwick line, will be stuck with 40 year old, slam-door rolling stock.

Mind the gap

There are also significant gaps in Scotland's railway. For example, Alloa in Clackmannanshire remains the biggest town in Scotland without a rail link and it has just been refused funding by the Scottish Executive's Public Transport Fund.

A link to Larkhall in Lanarkshire's been delayed because of complications in the PFI contract; the much vaunted Crossrail project, to the south of Edinburgh, (which basically involves converting a freight lines for passenger use) still hasn't happened and the campaign to reopen the Waverley line to the Borders lumbers on.

On the main line services to London GNER has quite a good record on the east coast while Virgin has a bad one on the west coast. Both companies (together with Railtrack) promise improvements with new tilting train rolling stock.

BBC Scotland: Scotland has among the best and worst train services in the UK, ranging from Scotrail near the top to Virgin's West Coast Trains near the bottom. BBC Scotland will have special TV and radio reports throughout the week as it uncovers the truth about future train services.