Oban-Glasgow train services to double from May 2014

First Scotrail has today announced that, as the result of a groundbreaking partnership between ScotRail, HITRANS and Argyll and Bute Council,  twice the current number of trains between Oban and Glasgow will be delivered from May 2014.

From that point, the number of daily trains from Monday to Saturday between Oban and Glasgow will rise from three to six.

Funded by ScotRail, a new early morning service from Oban will reach Glasgow before 09:00. This is aimed at providing a significant support for business travellers.

A new evening service will connect with the southbound Caledonian Sleeper at Crianlarich offering a wider range of journey opportunities. An additional afternoon service fills another gap in the southbound service.

Northbound, a new early morning service will depart Glasgow Queen Street at 05:10 reaching Oban before 09:00 – an equally welcome  inward business support. Two further new departures from Glasgow to Oban will be scheduled for  10:37 and 16:37, together offering an attractive of business and leisure travel options between Scotland’s biggest city and the west coast’s most beautiful town.

ScotRail has paid tribute to the organisations involved, including Transport Scotland, for their enthusiasm and flexibility in delivering integrated transport offerings.

Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail, said: ‘Our original plan was to run five services a day.  However, our early discussions with HITRANS and the Council revealed a compelling case for six each day.   So much so, that we decided to fund this ourselves.

‘This 2014 timetable will provide year round connections to the central belt and improved integrated transport options, with good connections to the majority of ferry services and even an opportunity to change at Connel Ferry for Oban airport.’

It is so good to see, at last, the awareness that Oban has an airport and the integration of that underdeveloped facility with other transport connections.

Deputy Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Roddy McCuish, said: ‘This is fantastic news for the people of Oban and Argyll and Bute as a whole.  More trains direct to Glasgow will make a real difference to their lives. This opens up big opportunities for the area and I am sure it will encourage more people to visit this beautiful part of the world.’

Transport Minister Keith Brown said:  ‘These additional services are great news for passengers and, in the year of Homecoming, will provide a real boost for the tourism sector in Oban, Argyll and the islands.

‘I have been extremely encouraged to see this fantastic result of partnership working in practice and it sets a great example for the Community Rail Partnerships we are launching throughout the country. I look forward to seeing more of these announcements in the coming months and years as the CRPs really take off.’

The Minister’s point here is the issue – the passing of responsibility now to businesses in Oban and north Argyll to take advantage of and to create opportunities from the much enhanced services being made available. This is a large signal to get moving.

The Minister’s point here is the right issue – with this provision, responsibility now passes to businesses in Oban and north Argyll to get moving, to take advantage of and to create opportunities from the much enhanced services being made available.

Councillor John Semple, Chair of HITRANS and lead councillor on Infrastructure, has welcomed the new services, saying: ‘HITRANS is delighted that Transport Minister Keith Brown has announced enhanced rail services for Oban.

‘It provides excellent connectivity for Lorne and Argyll mainland and island residents to access Central Scotland and beyond; and facilitates tourist travel to the west coast.

‘For some years HITRANS has been developing the case for more trains to Oban, and it is very satisfying to see the project coming to fruition.’

School Trains

ScotRail has also approached Argyll and Bute Council to suggest that, as part of the new timetable, the train operator could provide new ‘school trains’ for Oban school pupils from next August, 2014.

The move would see pupils receive year round rail passes.  ScotRail has stressed that it would work with the council and HITRANS to promote safe walking and cycle routes for each station. The pinch point in the A83 Between Arrochar and Tarbet will be quite a chllenge here.

MSP responses

Highlands and Islands MSP, Jamie McGrigor was first to react, warmly welcoming the announcement.

Speaking today, Jamie, who has consistently supported calls for more trains to run between Oban and Glasgow, said: ‘I am delighted at the news that train services between Oban and Glasgow will double from next May and that these improvements will be year round.

‘This is a significant boost for Oban and indeed Argyll and Bute as a whole and will be warmly welcomed by local residents, businesses and tourists alike, including those planning to visit the Argyll islands from Oban.

‘I am particularly pleased that a new early morning service will mean that business travellers will be able to get from Oban to Glasgow before 9am.

‘I look forward to the new services becoming operational next year and hope that they will be well used by both Argyll residents and visitors to the West Highlands.’

Local MSP Michael Russell, next up, said: ‘This is great news and I congratulate all the hard work that has brought this about. This move ensures that Oban will be more accessible than ever for visitors. Connectivity is so important as a lever in boosting the West Highland economy. This improved transport link helps Oban become the first choice of destination for visitors and as we know the Islands and surrounding area can also benefit from that.’

Highlands and Islands MSP, Mike Mackenzie, said: ‘All the parties coming together to get this outcome highlights are to be congratulated what can be achieved when different organisations work as one. Hopefully other organisations can learn from this and work together for the common good.

‘As good as this is it would be even better if the Calmac ferries tied up with this new timetable as  Councillor Mary-Jean Devon said “absolutely brilliant news and lets hope for Islanders to take advantage that there will be joined up thinking.’

Local MSP, Jackie Baillie, said: ‘I am delighted that commuters and visitors will have improved access to towns and villages in Dumbarton Constituency.

‘This will increase footfall in to the local area, which in turn will boost the profile and the economy of our communities.

‘I hope more residents will make use of this improved service.’

The Monday-Saturday timetable from May 2014

From Glasgow to Oban
05:10  New
08:20
10:37  New
12:21
16:37  New
18:21

From Oban to  Glasgow
05:20  New
08:57
12:11
14:41  New
18:11
20:37  New

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16 Responses to Oban-Glasgow train services to double from May 2014

  1. This is encouraging. What will the Sunday service look like? Currently the first train to depart Oban is around 12 noon, which is next to useless. Will there be any Sunday improvement too?

    And where can we find the full timetable, dates of operation, intermediate stops, arrival times, etc?

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  2. well – it is only good news if there will be wifi available. 3-4 hours on train is lost time in terms of productivity for those that would/could/should use public transport for biz purposes.

    could help improve out migration of young people.

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  3. Def good news. Maybe one day they’ll upgrade the rolling stock as well bringing about potential journey time improvements, both to Oban and Fort William. The wheezy Sprinters are getting past their best – maybe get soon to be ex-Glasgow-Edinburgh diesel rolling stock after electrification.

    Having used both lines several times over the last year, this is a bonus and can only bring about good things.

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    • The seats could certainly do with re-upholstering; the last time I went to Oban the foam was completely collapsed and as the train was full I couldn’t move to another. The other seats didn’t look to clever either, which must be murder for people with bad backs; it was bad enough for me. Is the electrification still happening? The last I read they’d postponed it again.

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  4. The seats on the Sprinters are torture, and I`m able bodied. Really awkward to get in and out of.

    Re: electrification, i`ll be honest i`m not sure. The announcement of a new intercity high speed rail link was the biggezt non event. It told me nothing, so not sure if the SG thinkelectrifying the existing route will be it, or if they actually plan a whole new line. If anyone knows, would be good to hear.

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    • They’re going ahead with electrification of the existing route between Queen Street and Waverley via Falkirk High, but deferring the originally planned extensions to include Alloa and Dunblane.

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      • Frankly the money would be better spent upgrading the Carstairs junction, or even raising the quality of the whole southern Glasgow-Edinburgh route to HSR standard in anticipation of the high-speed rail link that I will probably not see in this lifetime.

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        • The volume of passenger traffic on the main Queen Street – Waverley service makes it a prime candidate for electrification – travelling a high speed ‘dogleg’ via Carstairs would probably not be much quicker than a speeded-up electric service on the traditional direct route, and would not serve the existing intermediate stations on the direct line.

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  5. The West Highland Lines have been stuck with 1980s sprinters more suited to journeys of under an hour for 24 years now as the route has not been upgraded and cleared for any of the newer versions, some of which fail to cope with the tight curves and clearences in places (the main reason why they haven’t been replaced). Kyle of Lochalsh, Wick/Thurso used to have the same issue but it was resolved (perhaps with a bit of route expenditure). The pre-1989 rolling stock on the line (which was averaging 30+ years old at that point) was actually more comfortable for long journeys but due to its age and operating costs, with expensive locomotives pulling the rolling stock, it came to a point where it either had to be replaced or undergo expensive refurbishment (the latter not considered viable against running costs). Being involved in taking groups of up to 500 tourists from the UK to the likes of Oban and Fort William a few times a year feedback from our regular passengers is that they actually find these trains dating to the 1960s/1970s and earlier more comfortable than most of the modern ones they travel long distances on! Its such a shame that comfort has subsided with many modern train designs, and ironically the sprinters you have on the West Highland Lines are from from the worst out there I can assure you.

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