ScotRail is launching its new Scotrail Highland Explorer service which will be great news for tourists, cyclists, outdoor pursuits enthusiasts and local commuters.
The explorer uses three redesigned Class 153 carriages which will run on the beautiful world-famous West Highland Line which operates from Glasgow to Oban. The service begins on Monday the 19th of July giving passengers a chance to get away to the spectacular scenery of the Scottish countryside.
There have been difficult issues to overcome to get the project on track such as lack of space for carrying large sporting equipment. Working with Transport Scotland, cycling groups and outdoor specialists the ScotRail design team came up with an innovative idea to fit up to 20 cycles along with bulky sporting gear. The project hopes to encourage people to leave the car at home and take the train as an alternative approach to getting out into the great outdoors.
The design of the carriages provides space for both ordinary bikes and a limited number of tandem cycles, there is also an e-bike charging point which is the first of its kind in the UK. The carriages have had a full interior and exterior makeover which includes the addition of free WiFi, at seat power points, USB sockets and a fully refurbished toilet.
The ScotRail Highland Explorer carriages will also be good news for rural communities, providing a welcome lift to local economies and also encouraging travel throughout Scotland. The carriages will be added to a limited number of current West Highland services as a way to provide larger capacity.
The projects initial launch selected the West Highland Line because of the access it gives to the rest of Scotland. The line starts in Glasgow and takes passengers through breathtaking scenery to well known destinations such as Loch Lomond, The Trossachs and Oban, where you can travel on to the beautiful isles such as Barra, Islay and Tiree.
ScotRail has put together step-by-step directions on their website for using the new cycle racks and there will also be easy to follow diagrams on board the train too as well as staff available for help if needed.
Customers have to book a space for their cycle to guarantee a place on board and to support social distancing the operator will provide the usual approach allowing passengers to choose their own seat once onboard the train.
Scottish artist, Peter McDermott was commissioned to design the exterior livery of the train with the interiors have been modified by Brodie Engineering in Kilmarnock. The livery design captures stunning images of typical Highland scenery along with visible iconic landmarks along the West Highland Line which include the Glenfinnan monument and viaduct, Skye Cullin mountain range, Ben Lomond and the castle on Loch Awe.
Alex Hynes, Scotland’s Railway, Managing Director, said: “This is a landmark moment for lovers of Scotland’s great outdoors.
“For the first time in the UK, a train carriage will be able to accommodate up to 20 cycles which will allow more people than ever before to enjoy the majestic scenery this country has to offer.
“It’ll also be a welcome economic boost for rural communities, many of whom depend on tourism for their livelihoods.
“I am delighted, and proud, that ScotRail is able to deliver this service, further enhancing the appeal of our world famous and iconic West Highland Line.”
Graeme Dey, Minister for Transport, said: “The launch of this service marks a real step forward in encouraging an active lifestyle and tourism opportunities.
“By offering so many cycles spaces on board trains which serve some of Scotland’s most scenic routes, we can help even more people get out of cars and into the great outdoors. At the same time, we are opening economic opportunities for local communities working hard to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
“I’m sure cyclists and adventurers from across Scotland and beyond will look forward to using this unique service.”
Grace Martin, Scotland Director at Sustrans, added: “Sustrans have worked closely with ScotRail throughout the Highland Explorer project, and we are delighted to see the carriages launched along the West Highland Line.
“Even more people can now experience iconic west-coast routes like the Caledonia Way and enjoy world-famous Highland hospitality along the area’s many family-friendly day rides.
“The carriages are a great example of how we can work together to make walking, cycling and public transport more attractive and convenient options, giving people the opportunities to make more of their journeys without the need for a car.
“We’re looking forward to continuing our work with ScotRail and local stakeholders to encourage more residents and visitors to travel to and from the area sustainably, and spend time exploring the wonderful businesses, attractions and landscapes of Scotland’s west coast in greener, healthier ways.”
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