Freezing ScotRail service dubbed 'Polar Express' by customers

ScotRail said that it was looking into 'longer-term solutions' which could improve the service.

Freezing ScotRail service dubbed ‘Polar Express’ by customers travelling between Glasgow and Oban Getty Images

A train service travelling between Glasgow and Oban has been dubbed “the Polar Express” after commuters complained of freezing temperatures.

Commuters on early services on the West Highland Line train said broken heaters and leaking windows and doors have seen passengers wrap up in several layers.

Locals who have been campaigning for changes have compared it to the train bound for the North Pole in the 2004 Tom Hanks film The Polar Express.

ScotRail said that it was looking into “longer-term solutions” which could improve the service.

Why are the trains so cold?

ScotRail’s fleet of class 156 trains operate on the West Highland Line use excess heat from their diesel engines for heating carriages.

Temperatures inside the trains plummet overnight and then it can take a significant amount of time for them to heat up – particularly during winter.

The engine could be run and revved in advance to heat up the carriages before passengers board, but the noise could disturb Oban residents and would require staff to be available even earlier for the very first trains.

“I started taking a hot water bottle with me in the winter”

Rhona Moirin, commuter

Posting in a local Facebook group, Martin Douglas who often travels on the 5.17am service said: “I complain to ScotRail often, but nothing ever gets done. The rolling stock is old, the windows leak, the doors leak and the heaters are either broken or inadequate. 

“Ten years of this commute and I’m ready to chuck it.”

He urged others to contact ScotRail and let the rail provider know their feelings.

Rhona Moirin spoke of her experience and said: “I’ve been commuting back and forth to Glasgow for years and I completely agree – sitting for three plus hours in coat, hat, gloves etc. and still freezing. 

“It’s really miserable. I started taking a hot water bottle with me in the winter, and eventually stopped getting the early train as it was just unbearable.”

Scotty McNicoll added: “I travel on this route with three young children and it’s a total joke the lack of heating, staff at station and onboard are spot on so helpful but seriously ScotRail need to resolve it ASAP feel bad for the elderly and kids mainly.”

David Lister, ScotRail safety, engineering and sustainability director, said: “We’re sorry to customers who have experienced discomfort during their journey as a result of cold temperatures on board our trains in the West Highlands.    

“We know that the Scottish winter can make heating the first train of the day before departure very challenging.   

“Our staff are working tirelessly to ensure our trains are operating as reliably as possible.   

“We continue to look into longer-term solutions and funding options which could improve on-board temperatures for our passengers.” 

Transport Scotland said heating issues had been reported to ScotRail on the 8.21am Glasgow to Oban services on two occasions during random on-board testing.

The on-board heating was found to be below the ambient temperature on one occasion.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code
Posted in