A reporter from the Scottish Sunday Mail called me last week. He had seen my recent Rail Engineer feature on ScotRail’s ‘new’ HST and wanted my comments for a piece he wished to write about these trains.

Transport Scotland had undertaken a consultation exercise to find out what the Scots wanted from their trains, to which the answer, for those travelling to Aberdeen and Inverness, was an East Coast HST, the requirement for an ‘HST equivalent’ had been written into the ScotRail franchise specification to which franchise winner, Abellio, responded with a commitment to provide HSTs. The work being done to provide refurbished HSTs is impressive.

When I researched my feature, I had been impressed so, when speaking to the reporter, I waxed lyrical about the benefits of these refurbished trains and explained why their age was not an issue, which he seemed to accept. He sent me an email to confirm that my positive quotes had been correctly recorded, and I was left thinking that his piece would be an upbeat item about these refurbished trains.

How wrong could I be? ‘Laughing stock – ScotRail order 40-year old InterCity 125s’ was the headline for the article. Yet two-thirds of the article consisted on my faithfully recorded positive quotes with further comment from ScotRail and Transport Scotland explaining the benefits of these trains.

The only negative comment was from Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, whose quote ‘You wouldn’t expect the police to drive a Rover 2000 and call it high powered today’ was featured in bold type.

Whilst it is perhaps a regrettable truth that such knocking copy sells newspapers, Manuel Cortes’ comments are disappointing. It is true that the rail industry is not perfect and it is right for Unions to highlight issues. However, rubbishing a good news project on which some of his members will be working doesn’t help the industry.

ScotRail’s ‘new’ HSTs will provide 40 per cent more seats on their intercity routes, which will no doubt soon be filled. Abellio is giving Scotland’s train passengers what they want. What’s not to like?

Written by David Shirres, Rail Engineer Editor