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Airdrie–Bathgate rail link - 10 years on

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och aye

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With the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Airdrie-Bathgate rail link reopening approaching (the official opening was 8 March 2011), I wondered what thoughts people have on what the railway reopening has achieved and thoughts on the railway itself i.e. if it has changed areas, improvements that can be made etc. It would be especially great to hear from passengers who live in areas where the railway serves. :smile:
 
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fgwrich

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From my perspective, it is an excellent railway and does give a few good options of travelling between Edinburgh and Glasgow (I've got relatives which live along the line). It's also has some incredibly scenic stretches between Edinburgh and Drumgelloch, particularly around the Hillend stretch. However, the negative aspect from me is the slow crawl into Glasgow from Airdrie. I would ideally look at both renewing the signalling along there to change the spacings, and look at increasing the number of tracks where possible from two to three or 4.
 

scotraildriver

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Pre pandemic the lack of tables on the Class 334 has always been something highlighted and a reason not to use the route. People will travel to Glasgow or Edinburgh and use the E&G via Falkirk as they can work/use a laptop etc en route. Given the refurbishment of the fleet, fitting of A/C and WiFi the lack of tables seems a poor show. The more people who can be transferred to the route the more pressure is taken off the main line.
 

route101

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I use the route from time to time. Either for a change if not in a rush or if there has been disruption. More of a local service to me.
 

Cheshire Scot

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Bathgate and Livingston must be amongst the best connected towns of their size with four trains per hour to both Edinburgh and Glasgow benefitting particularly from the very good line speeds although sadly west of Airdrie the whole North Clyde system is stuck in it's 1960 (and possibly earlier) 60mph maximum speed.
 

norbitonflyer

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I've only been the full length once, and as I was tucked up in bed on the Fort William sleeper I wasn't really able to admire the scenery!
 

Scotrail12

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As a (soon to be former) resident of Coatbridge, it's been very useful to me - a direct link to Edinburgh and there within an hour. Not bad at all and opens up more connections. Also glad that it brought much more 334s to the Airdrie/Coatbridge - Glasgow rota, previously it was tatty 320s all round.

The line is a great ride itself, very smooth and doesn't show any age. Always quiet though.
 

route101

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I use the route from time to time. Either for a change if not in a rush or if there has been disruption
As a (soon to be former) resident of Coatbridge, it's been very useful to me - a direct link to Edinburgh and there within an hour. Not bad at all and opens up more connections. Also glad that it brought much more 334s to the Airdrie/Coatbridge - Glasgow rota, previously it was tatty 320s all round.

The line is a great ride itself, very smooth and doesn't show any age. Always quiet though.
Where you moving to?

Yes must be very useful to have Edinburgh link. Yes usually quiet in the middle, guess people just dont cross the border ha.
 

waverley47

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The A2B line has by all measures been a resounding success.
It opened up a large hinterland, six large towns now have 4tph in each direction to Glasgow and Edinburgh directly (double frequency with longer trains), new stations along the route, better commuting and leisure opportunities, faster journeys ect. Granted, it's a slog from Airdrie, but that's a problem that will eventually be solved, and nothing to do with the rebuilt link.

However more importantly it restarted the desire to reopen closed railway lines across the country.* We would not have seen Levenmouth or EWR (edited, alloa was already open and the borders was authorised before but opened after) so soon without the A2B to kick things off. It proved conclusively that rebuilding railway lines can be hugely beneficial, and that they are worth the investment in the modern era. It kicked off the current wiring in Scotland, and has helped serve as a test case for many feasibility reports, laying the groundwork for reopenings all over the country.

Yes, it has been amazingly helpful during disruption, as a capacity booster, and as a vital link for deprived communities, but it's legacy will remain as the bedrock of all modern reopenings across the UK.

*Obviously the robin hood line, Corby and scattered station reopenings occured throughout the period 1990-2010, but this one is different. This was the first modern railway rebuilt to modern standards along a closed track bed. A lot of the lessons that were learned here were used in the Borders, and continue to be used across rebuilt lines.
 
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tbtc

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The A2B line has by all measures been a resounding success.

How have passenger numbers been compared to predictions?

I'm genuinely asking as I never see anyone talking about how well they've done (and obviously people like to talk about how Alloa/ Tweedbank compare to predicted figures)

it's a slog from Airdrie, but that's a problem that will eventually be solved, and nothing to do with the rebuilt link

The problem here is that paths at each end are going to be fairly fixed (i.e. east of Newbridge at one end, through Queen Street and onto the Partick bottleneck at the other end), so you might be able to speed up the intermediate bit of the journey but then have a long dwell to get onto the main lines)

However more importantly it restarted the desire to reopen closed railway lines across the country.* We would not have seen the Borders, Levenmouth, Alloa or EWR so soon without the A2B to kick things off. It proved conclusively that rebuilding railway lines can be hugely beneficial, and that they are worth the investment in the modern era. It kicked off the current wiring in Scotland, and has helped serve as a test case for many feasibility reports, laying the groundwork for reopenings all over the country.

Yes, it has been amazingly helpful during disruption, as a capacity booster, and as a vital link for deprived communities, but it's legacy will remain as the bedrock of all modern reopenings across the UK.

*Obviously the robin hood line, Corby and scattered station reopenings occured throughout the period 1990-2010, but this one is different. This was the first modern railway rebuilt to modern standards along a closed track bed. A lot of the lessons that were learned here were used in the Borders, and continue to be used across rebuilt lines.

Bathgate was re-opened in the 1980s (I think BR even brought a Pacer up to Waverley for the occasion)? - Paisley Canal was re-opened in the 1990s (as well as stations on the Maryhill line) - Larkhall was re-opened in the noughties - all on old track beds as far as I am aware (?) - A2B was just one more step rather than the beginning of anything (and wasn't Alloa already open before A2B?)
 

Mcr Warrior

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Alloa station reopened in May 2008, so 'yes', was open again before A2B by a year or three.
 

Bald Rick

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We would not have seen the Borders

Borders went through Parliament well before Airdrie - Bathgate, and Alloa was almost open before the Airdrie - Bathgate Line Act received Royal Assent.


How have passenger numbers been compared to predictions?

I'm genuinely asking as I never see anyone talking about how well they've done (and obviously people like to talk about how Alloa/ Tweedbank compare to predicted figures)

That’s what I want to know too.
 

waverley47

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Borders went through Parliament well before Airdrie - Bathgate, and Alloa was almost open before the Airdrie - Bathgate Line Act received Royal Assent.

Bathgate was re-opened in the 1980s (I think BR even brought a Pacer up to Waverley for the occasion)? - Paisley Canal was re-opened in the 1990s (as well as stations on the Maryhill line) - Larkhall was re-opened in the noughties - all on old track beds as far as I am aware

I do take the point about alloa, should have checked that.

Borders though opened quite a while afterwards, indeed it was just starting to be built as Airdrie to Bathgate reopened.

Paisley canal is an odd one, it was open as a freight only line as far as haughead, and a lot of the infrastructure was still in place (although there was an astounding amount of work done). Larkhall I shall concede, hadn't thought of that one.

The difference with all the rest though is that they are all low speed branch lines, either extensions of exiting services or rebuilt on existing infrastructure. Airdrie to Bathgate was something different, the first new stretch of main line standard track built in this country since the Selby diversion. The willingness to build big didn't really exist until both the borders and A2B projects were proposed, and the political difficulty of stopping an existing service meant that A2B was pressed into service more quickly than the Borders line, even though they both have similar single track kms.
 

Bald Rick

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Borders though opened quite a while afterwards, indeed it was just starting to be built as Airdrie to Bathgate reopened.

Agreed - but it was Borders that paved the way for Airdrie - Bathgate, not the other way round. The Borders bill was use to test the structures and governance of doing such a thing in the Scottish Parliament. Without Borders, it’s unlikely Airdrie - Bathgate would have happened. This isn’t me saying it incidentally, this is the opinion of MSPs and parliamentary officials that I have spoken to in Holyrood.

(the preceding Alloa Act was rather more straight forward).
 

waverley47

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Agreed - but it was Borders that paved the way for Airdrie - Bathgate, not the other way round. The Borders bill was use to test the structures and governance of doing such a thing in the Scottish Parliament. Without Borders, it’s unlikely Airdrie - Bathgate would have happened. This isn’t me saying it incidentally, this is the opinion of MSPs and parliamentary officials that I have spoken to in Holyrood.

(the preceding Alloa Act was rather more straight forward).

Interesting, I handnt realised how much of a test of practice the borders rail line was, I'd always assumed it was a more straightforward vote buying affair.

I would argue in that case that the lessons learned through both these projects in that case have led to the current state of affairs with reopenings on top of the agenda. Borders helped start the ball rolling in Scotland, and subsequently in England as Westminster seeks to appear to catch up; whereas the lessons learned in the physuc building of the Airdrie link have been pivotal in teaching how to build and how not to build railway lines.
 

takno

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Pre pandemic the lack of tables on the Class 334 has always been something highlighted and a reason not to use the route. People will travel to Glasgow or Edinburgh and use the E&G via Falkirk as they can work/use a laptop etc en route. Given the refurbishment of the fleet, fitting of A/C and WiFi the lack of tables seems a poor show. The more people who can be transferred to the route the more pressure is taken off the main line.
I found the half tables fairly usable for a laptop when they were running on the Falkirk route. I've got to admit though that when the Falkirk line was closed for flooding I was sending my staff via Shotts to give them a decent chance of doing work on the train
 
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Pre pandemic the lack of tables on the Class 334 has always been something highlighted and a reason not to use the route. People will travel to Glasgow or Edinburgh and use the E&G via Falkirk as they can work/use a laptop etc en route. Given the refurbishment of the fleet, fitting of A/C and WiFi the lack of tables seems a poor show. The more people who can be transferred to the route the more pressure is taken off the main line.
This is a good point. When the Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk line was washed out, going via Airdrie and Bathgate was a painful alternative. Busier, far less comfortable, and taking almost twice as long. The line via Shotts was generally better, although neither tend to get that many end to end passengers.

Tables would be better, they'd cut down on the number of standing passengers that could be carried, but we're probably unlikely to want huge numbers of standing passengers in the near future anyway.
 

route101

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There was on time in the last two years, the Airdrie and Bathgate route was the only option, rest were shut. The frequency is good though it used to be more a fast, slow, fast service, now its more even. I do use the fast Shotts services more often though.
 

backontrack

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It's also added the communities of Armadale, Blackridge and Caldercruix onto the network in their own right. Especially Armadale, which has a population of 12,000+.
 

PaulMc7

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Only ever used the train on that line a couple of times but it's certainly useful with the links it offers. Links smaller communities with Glasgow and Edinburgh and it covers enough ground that growth isn't impossible. With Wester Moffat being chosen as the new Monklands Hospital location I imagine that'll create new passengers to Airdrie/Drumgelloch down the line too
 

backontrack

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Only ever used the train on that line a couple of times but it's certainly useful with the links it offers. Links smaller communities with Glasgow and Edinburgh and it covers enough ground that growth isn't impossible. With Wester Moffat being chosen as the new Monklands Hospital location I imagine that'll create new passengers to Airdrie/Drumgelloch down the line too
It also provides Dunbartonshire with a handy direct train to Edinburgh, which is good for those who don't want to change.
 

PaulMc7

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It also provides Dunbartonshire with a handy direct train to Edinburgh, which is good for those who don't want to change.
Yeah absolutely. Preferred the change at Hyndland or Partick instead of Queen Street and Glasgow Central when I've used the train to Edinburgh. Just being able to stay at the same platform is a huge plus
 

Scotrail314209

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I can't believe that this link is ten years old. I still remember when it was a basic 2tph service between Helensburgh and Edinburgh with Carmine 334s. (Made for quite a sight in Edinburgh).

Before that, Helensburgh - Drumgelloch with the 320s.
 

Scotrail12

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I can't believe that this link is ten years old. I still remember when it was a basic 2tph service between Helensburgh and Edinburgh with Carmine 334s. (Made for quite a sight in Edinburgh).
I miss the Carmine 334s, they looked much better in that livery IMO.
 

InOban

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It's also added the communities of Armadale, Blackridge and Caldercruix onto the network in their own right. Especially Armadale, which has a population of 12,000+.
I think that there were plans for substantial new housing at these locations but I don't think that this has yet happened.
 

backontrack

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Yeah absolutely. Preferred the change at Hyndland or Partick instead of Queen Street and Glasgow Central when I've used the train to Edinburgh. Just being able to stay at the same platform is a huge plus
Good for step-free access, too.
 

tbtc

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That’s what I want to know too

I'm getting suspicious about it, based on the fact that the people who are cheerleaders for pretty much every re-opening suggestion tend to be reduced to talking about how A2B is "useful" rather than providing evidence of it performing particularly well.

It's nice to have a fourth line between Edinburgh and Glasgow for diversions (there were already the Falkirk High line, the Shotts line and the Carstairs route - as well as the fact that the line via Grahamston and Cumbernauld provides another option in the case of disruption) but there are already three (and a half) lines between the cities so it wasn't like this new link was the only option when the line through Falkirk High was disrupted.

Obviously the kind of people who view any and every re-opening as a great thing (rather than as a means to an end, which sometimes fails to deliver as much as it promised) are going to treat this re-opening as a great thing - but I'd like to see some evidence of the expected passenger numbers to be able to actually assess whether this route was worthwhile (given that we could have spent the money on other projects)

There's a BBC article that mentions passenger numbers:


Transport Scotland said increased frequency and greater seating capacity had helped boost usage at existing stations on the route, with Bathgate (+4%), Uphall (+21%) and Livingston North (+12%) all showing increases in travel to and from Edinburgh

...but you'd expect passenger numbers from West Lothian to Edinburgh to increase a bit if you replace two DMUs per hour with four EMUs per hour - the question is how the overall passenger numbers on the route compare with the expected ones after ten years of operation
 

PaulLothian

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I think that there were plans for substantial new housing at these locations but I don't think that this has yet happened.

Armadale has grown considerably over the time since the reopening work commenced, with a lot of new housing on the south and east sides of the town (there may be some at the west end, but I haven't been that way for ages). The new rail line was a significant factor for many people in moving there. Having known the town for 45 years, it hadn't had a lot going for it for a long time, and it's good to see it developing.
 

InOban

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The attraction of these settlements between Edinburgh and Glasgow, by any route, is that if gives members of the same household access to work or education etc at both ends. Possibly on different days of the week.
 
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