I FIND myself agreeing with Alex Hynes on the age of the trains being less relevant than other factors ("Passengers ‘do not care how old their trains are'", The Herald, October 9). The trains being launched at Aberdeen today (October 10) are indeed 40 years old, but their engines are less than 10 years old, and the comfort and speed of these trains still beats any younger diesel trains.

But behind all this razzmatazz, there is another story that ScotRail seem reluctant to acknowledge. The flagship new Hitachi trains operating on the Edinburgh and Glasgow main line have all been withdrawn for safety reasons, leaving commuters with half-length trains in the main, and a return to worse overcrowding than we have seen for many years. The fault will surely lie with the trains' builders, Hitachi, but this again highlights a major deficiency in the privatisation model that has been imposed on us. The operators like ScotRail are not allowed to own any trains. They must lease them from a small number of owning companies. This both increases costs, and creates a constant shortage of spare trains. There is no effective market in spare diesel trains, and spare electric trains are kept hundreds of miles away. So, no quick relief for the long-suffering commuters on the Edinburgh-Glasgow line.

So when the SNP suggests handing over operation to CalMac, this will only solve some of the problems. CalMac needs to own its own fleet of trains to provide the level of service we deserve.

Arthur Homan-Elsy,

55 Deanburn Road,


ABOUT 50 years ago, under the direction of a Transport Minister with a strong personal financial stake in the road-building industry, Dr Beeching closed one-third of Britain’s railways. The criterion was profitability. So the axe fell most heavily on Scotland with its remote settlements.

Fortunately environmental issues have now come to the fore, bringing a new emphasis on public transport.

The Glasgow Subway, built in 1896 (same year as Budapest’s) is the third-oldest underground system in the world. It is the only system which has never been expanded.

There have been at least two lost opportunities to do so. From 1977-79 the system closed for renovation. Expansion was seriously discussed, but in the end they settled for renewing the stations and rolling stock (at a cost of £52 million).

At the same time Newcastle and Gateshead constructed an entire Metro system from scratch at a cost of just over £200 million.

In 2013 the Strathclyde Passenger Transport espoused a plan to expand the Subway east and south, joining it up with railways closed in the 1960s and 1970s. This plan was shelved.

Now renovation is again under discussion: shinier stations and driverless trains.

No mention of extending the lines to the destinations people want to reach.

The folk of the East End, in particular, suffer from low car ownership. Bus services to the outlying schemes can be unreliable.

The main part of the expense in constructing a subway system is surely planning and digging the tunnels, and many of these tunnels are already there.

Most cosmopolitan centres of the world – many smaller than Glasgow – have a proper metro system which is the first choice for their commuters. If Glasgow reopened its low level tunnels and stations the current Subway with its unique gauge tracks could remain as the Circle Line, just as London’s original Underground became its Circle Line when the Tube first expanded many years ago.

Please don’t let us miss this opportunity again.

Mary McCabe,

25 Circus Drive,