Queen Street to Bangalore!

On my way to Inverness for the National Collective event at Bogbain Farm (me and all the other creatives!) My trip brought to mind what Jean Urquhart said at the Yes meeting at Portree.

She said all new MSPs should be obliged to travel around Scotland for six weeks after their election – by public transport…


They would get an understanding of their own country and would find out first hand just how poor some of our infrastructure is from no phone signal, no wi fi, no radio reception, dismal facilities, dodgy services, lack of information, toilets, and comfort despite some pretty high charges.

I decided I’d try to go by train (like the new Scotrail bullet train above!) on the West Coast line as far as Fort William and tried to find out how I could then get to Inverness – by train. No amount of hunting the net could explain and the Scotrail website only responds to specific questions. Since it couldn’t answer this one, I was suspicious that my first instinct was right – you can’t train it to Sneckie from FW.

I called the information line where an unconvincing young man told me I could indeed train from Fort William to Inverness – via GLASGOW! ‘Do you know the geography of that’, I asked, to be told that was what it said on the screen in Bangalore.

I tried saying that I was actually starting out from Glasgow but he had no idea what I was talking about. Satisfied that there was no rail line between the two places, I went ahead to book a ticket online for the East Coast line. Success! Using my Old Geezer’s Pass I reserved a First Class seat with the saving as befits a man of my status.


It was only when the ticket arrived in the mail that it said the departure was from EITHER Queen Street or Central. Now I know they go from Queen Street but should I take that at face value? I went on to the Scotrail site and my eye caught the sidebar information about work on the line and disruption.

There it said that my train would not run from Queen Street at all and I would be going by bus instead as far as Perth. But nowhere was that info available while I bought a ticket and it didn’t say so on the ticket. In fact it didn’t even say at any stage that I would change at Perth – something a visitor would surely need to know…

Now I am stuck with a First Class ticket that befits my etc…and I’m going by bloody coach! Do I get my money back? Will have to sit with Yes-voting riff-raff?

I called up Bangalore again to double check all this and had it confirmed by a nice young man looking at the screen thousands of miles away. But he doesn’t know what the work is, what they’re doing or why I wasn’t informed on booking because, nice as he is, he might as well be a machine. An information serviced needs staff in command of knowledge and able to reassure, not parrot down a bad phone line.

I regard this type of misleading service as slippery merchandising – money for old rope and much too hard work for a paying customer.

I suggest Jean’s idea for MSPs be extended to all managers of Scotrail. Take away their staff travel passes and make them do what we have to…this is not a front-facing customer-driven business. It’s a make-do, ‘we’ve no competition’ model that doesn’t try hard enough. (Maybe we should tie the boss to the line and ask him to guess if the train’s going to be on time…)

We DO need a better Scotland.

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49 thoughts on “Queen Street to Bangalore!

  1. I gave up the train years ago for my commute from East Falkirk to edin/Glass.Main reason lateness,cancelations, overcrowding,overpriced and obnoxious indifferent staff.The tipping point was missing a train before it even came into the station.Due to having to queue 7 minutes for a ticket in Falkirk.Meanwhile the train came in and the guard wouldn’t let me on until I bought a ticket.You can’t get off without a ticket at Queen St I said.Are you going to make me late for work when I was 7 minutes early for your train.Rules are rules.That is the kind of brainless eejits that give Scotrail a bad name.I was half an hour late for work.I complained to Scotrail but they just didn’t get it.I am a customer not a criminal….crazy!

  2. Would that train be the prototype for the high speed connection that will increase the wealth of London by making Birmingham one of its suburbs ?

  3. Jean and you are people who I share a desire with, one which sees Scotland with the transport and infrastructure it needs as a country in the 21st Century. Seems to me that whilst those South of the Border complain about their potholes, they did actually have roads connecting their cities for the whole of the 20th Century, if we were so lucky.
    We are a patchwork quilt of second hand roads which masquerade as motorways and single track roads where it was not considered to have any better. After all we have a small population, why on earth do we need an infrastructure. I think if you look at the map of the railways we have before the 1960’s they at least serviced much of Scotland and we never got the replacement roads once they disappeared. While we are at it could be also get our Ports back, it is amazing how our GDP will increase once things are shipped through Scotland.
    I will say to all of those complaining of ScotRail, I travelled with them from Dunfermline to Edinburgh, three days a week and though they were not amazing, I travelled from Inverkeithing to Edinburgh in the 1980’s, lovely Victorian carriages in the morning and if you were lucky guards van in the evening with what felt like another couple of hundred people.Made the Japanese Railways feel quite normal.

    • I live in the Borders and we have a new railhead coming to Tweedbank next year. I need a car to get to Selkirk where I park for free and get on the magnificent First Bus X95 to Edinburgh for free.

      We shall have to wait and see how this new access affects this region, but from my personal ( green, thus taking the bus ) aspect I was disappointed to hear not only of the proposed rail cost, but also that the system is powered by diesel – in a country where we can have to dump oversupply of renewable energy.

      • Yerkitbreeks, we lived in Livingston circa late 1970’s, we moved just before they connected Livingston to the rail network, well the line through from Bathgate was so over subscribed that there was a general shock at the numbers wanting to use the train. We moved from Livingston to Inverkeithing at the beginning of 1981 and used the train for work having got rid of the car. Now I much prefer to use the train, I do not drive I should say. I am an Edinburgh woman who was used to public transport. We moved back into Edinburgh 1983 and we lived there for a number of years before moving to Linlithgow, where we were so far away from the station that you needed a car to get the train.
        I think you may prefer the train, but the cost will have to out way the time spent on the bus. I was using the train for work for my last four years before retirement whilst living in Dunfermline and I know that I could have used the bus but could not afford the time it would have taken.

        • Now that you have “time on your hands” take the bus from Dunfermline bus station, or the Halbeath Park and Ride, I think you’ll find it just as quick as some of the slower multiple stop trains from Dunfermline, I know I do, “Parks of Hamilton” are flyers!!.

  4. Is that the train that’s too fat for the French – what with their desire for sylph like forms …..?

    As for Scot Rail … one of their big problems is the lack of lines as alternatives when something goes wrong and needs fixed when there is work between Stirling and Perth (and many other places) as the only alternate route is to tour Fife or switch at Dundee for Perth. The real longest way round to Inverness is to go via Edinburgh and Aberdeen … which is what you have to do when something goes wrong on the Perth / Inverness line.

    You could have got creative, Derek, and sailed from Fort William to Inverness up the Great Glen … but maybe that’s not the point of your rant ….

  5. Meant to add, had to go and buy my ten tickets for the few weeks when still travelling, the only way I could get any form of discount. Had to stand behind a gentleman trying to book tickets to Islay and I thought that was a comedy turn. He was returning on a Saturday and boy the permutations for his return journey was awesome. I imagine going to Bangalore would have be a tad simpler.

  6. You have my sympathies Derek. Welcome to Scottish transport. I don’t drive, so have extensive experience of the type of situation you describe. I’ve lost count of the number of complaints I’ve sent over the decades.

    I have a friend who travels around the world setting up integrated transport systems. He groans loudly any time Scotland is discussed. His eyes roll and his head shakes. A vision of frustration at his own country’s inability to get it right.

    Another friend, now sadly deceased, who worked on the rail network, had much the same look. His tales caused great mirth, but in reality, weren’t funny.

    Lack of investment has been a common thread. My railway friend was convinced that both Forth and Tay bridges were only upgraded due to the problems discovered on the Forth road bridge.

    I can’t confirm his assertion that all East Coast routes would have gone through Perth otherwise, leading to the closure of the Fife line, but nothing in this dysfunctional UK would surprise me, not even structures as iconic as the Forth and Tay railway bridges becoming no more than ornaments.

    We did have a Transport minister who used public transport regularly. Sadly he was hounded from office in 2010 by the unionist cabal.

    Independence won’t be a cure all, but a modern, integrated transport system is surely well within the talents and expertise of a nation as inventive and hard working as Scotland.

    • I’m not sure what work on the Tay bridge you are referring to. My understanding as a Dundee resident is that it was planned and necessary maintenance to be expected on such a structure every 50 years or so. Sure you can spin that into: if the work isn’t done they shall have to close it. But you could have applied that to the work on the Tay Road Bridge. The expansion joint replacement was planned and the buffers around the pilings to protect further against ship strike risk was just modern risk avoidance stuff. I used to regularly see a small boat go up to Perth to pick up aggregate which was the only vessel of any size (and it is not very big) to go under the bridges. So precisely which ships the supports had to be protected against was never explained. Still they look nice and sturdy now.

      Though apparently work to renew the surface of the Road Bridge has been deferred as core samples show it is holding up better than expected.

      The Forth Road Bridge was a problem and lots of suspension bridges the world over have been checked as a result. But why that would cause a closer look at completely different sorts of bridges makes no engineering sense.

      Anyway Derek Mrs Muscleguy and I spent the weekend learning/relearning the art of sea kayaking in and around Oban. We are thinking of signing up to kayak the length of the Great Glen. We are 48 and have survived two days of unaccustomed exercise so I see no reason why you cannot hire a kayak to get you from Fort William to Inverness. Think of how much more sylph like the exercise will make you 😉

  7. In my view BBC Scotland staff should have to travel daily from Fort William to Inverness, but that would really be just to get rid of them, in the nicest possible way, in the hope that something else takes over. They’re the living proof that nature does not abhor a broadcasting vacuum, however, so we may simply have to wait till September and the triumph of rationality.

    • I object I live near Inverness. We have very little pollution – as yet. Dumping BBC PQ staff on us is just too much.

  8. … and I wonder whether a further indy-debate dividend might arise if B&Q declare a discount on DIY transport infrastructure following a no vote – track, signals, what have you. Also DIY flatpack access-friendly toilets and personal ventilation/heating systems for the outer (or inner) reaches north of Inverness.

  9. You manged to write this without mentioning Beeching! Those of us old enough to remember the railway network before Beeching axed it also recall that the Minister of Transport at the time was Ernest Marples of Marples Ridgeway motorway construction company. How our public assets have been decimated for private gain, (Marples fled to Monaco with his assets) and the environmental damage is enormous when freight and people now have to travel by road. A glance at a rail map of Scotland tells you how poorly served we have been by the Union.

    • The Beeching axe back in the 1960s means a Dumfries to Stranraer train goes via Glasgow. It is the SW equivalent of Derek’s NW conundrum.

      I won’t hear a bad word be said about telephone helplines though. I frequently get calls from those nice people at Microsoft wishing to personally check out my PC for viruses. Now that’s service!

      • I get those nice people too and their called wonderfully exotic names like Andrew ,Sean , Jean and Mhairi .
        Combined with near perfect English ,though heavily accented ,I am wondering if they are truly Scottish in origin – can you help???

        As for transport in Scotland it is yet another example of the ” union dividend”
        My ain’t we lucky!

  10. I’ve travelled round Scotland by public transport all my life and mostly enjoyed it. Many of the people who whine about public transport are confirmed car users who want to justify their anti-public transport prejudices. Scotland’s rail network is what it is because of (a) the uneven distribution of population, and (b) the entirely unsympathetic Dr Beeching and his DoT colleagues for whom Scotland was just a faraway country costing HMG a large subsidy. Levels of investment in rail now are far higher than when the system was 100% nationalised, though I’m sure there’s still scope for efficiencies.

    Anyone who thinks nationalised rail systems are wonderful (socialists) should take a good look at the mess the Greek Railway is in. Currently mostly closed down and up for sale to anyone who’s stupid enough to buy it. Due to chronic overmanning and weird disjointed and money-wasting investment schemes from the days pre-2008 when money was cheap and could be blown without too much thought.

    As for buses, no middle class male apart from me is going to be seen dead on a bus – that’s for junkies and women i.e. the Poor.

    I agree entirely that we need proper integration of different modes.

    • To see a fast, efficient, fully integrated nationalised rail system, Switzerland is an excellent example. One relatively cheap ticket allows you to travel by rail, tram, bus and boat in Zurich. The Swiss subsidise it because they like fast efficient services. Recently, they built a special railway so that EU lorries can be obliged to travel though Switzerland to Italy by rail. This provides rail income and saves on road repairs.
      The reason Greece is in a financial mess is because the wealthy won’t pay taxes. Before they left power, the Colonels introduced a law so that anyone engaged in shipping doesn’t pay tax. Naturally, everyone and his dog claims to be engaged in shipping.

    • I’m a middle class male and I travel by bus regularly both for commuting and other purposes. I LIKE buses. They are also cheaper than the trains. Holding onto ones money and not frittering it away unnecessarily is also a middle class trait. Also in Scotland.

      I also use buses because of global warming. And before you ask, yes, we do have a car.

  11. My student son’s flatmates who come from various countries outwith Scotland are appalled at our transport system, how difficult to access, costly travel etc., compared to their home countries.

    My husband also, who travels abroad regularly as part of his job, comments that the worst part of his journey is when he arrives back on these shores. He insists that there is some maniacal genius in a secret location who has devilishly organized all timetables so that no form of transport meets up with the others. So buses will invariably leave just before his bus or train or plane arrives. It doesn’t matter how many different ways he has tried to come at the problem the result is always the same. He refuses to use his car to get to airports but feels that he is being forced to do it.

    Hinterlands in Scotland are not well served. It should be one of the first priorities of an independent Scotland. So much depends on a decent, affordable transport infrastructure.

  12. I travel from Skye to Edinburgh by public transport several times per year. I take the bus from Kyle to Inverness because there is no convenient train to connect with the 12.53 which takes 3 hours and a half to reach Edinburgh. This is unacceptably slow.

    The trains are not inter city trains and as suburban carriages they are suitable for suburbia not for long distance travel with luggage. I travel first class in order to use my laptop and find the accommodation little short of a disgrace. Recently in first class between Edinburgh and Inverness I spoke with 6 English golfers going to Dornoch to play golf – at one point one of them remarked ” what magnificent scenery – pity the trains are rubbish!”

    What an advertisement for our country.

  13. I’d like to see all Scotland’s cities connected by a high-speed train network. You’d be able to go from any city to any other in around 1 hour. The French TGV trains manage 300kph = 188mph comfortably and none of our cities are more than 180 miles apart from each other (http://www.rampantscotland.com/know/blknow_mileage.htm)

    This would revolutionise our country. You’d be able to live anywhere and work anywhere. Scotland would effectively have the connectedness of a city of 5 million people but we’d still have all the lovely green space in between. Critical mass and rurality at the same time.

  14. @G.P.Walrus

    Absolutely agree.

    Upgrades to transport infrastructure shouldn’t be aimed at reducing travel time by a few minutes here and there.

    If we can reduce the travel time between Inverness, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and the Central Belt this would transform Scotland.

    This will never be the aim of a Westminster government who won’t invest north of Birmingham let alone Scotland.

  15. That was meant to read “a few minutes here and there between Glasgow and Edinburgh”.

  16. Here in Argyle tonight,the midgies are biting and my mobile network supplier has finally granted internet access.
    They only supply an intermittent nocturnal service in this part of the world.
    Not good enough Vodafone but is unfortunately an all too familiar a tale in the highlands and islands.
    As a condition of being granted a license in Scotland,mobile operators should be held to minimum service conditions.
    Only going to be possible when licensing is decided in Scotland and not London.
    Hopefully Vodafone will allow this comment to post.
    Get a bike Derek…thanks.

  17. “She said all new MSPs should be obliged to travel around Scotland for six weeks after their election – by public transport…”

    What public transport? The Borders waits with anticipation for its new railway — the timetable for the old Waverley line having been manipulated to make it unsustainable and ripe for Beeching closure. The new line is too far away to be of any good to us, even when it opens, and the nearest bus is seven miles away. Many of us have to manage without public transport.

    A friend pays ten pounds to attend an evening meeting for a three mile journey by taxi. And then forks out another ten pounds for the return trip. Needles to say, she doesn’t attend very often. That is the reality of rural living. And that is why we rely so much on the internet despite often slow speeds.

    I appreciate the central belt and the need for our major towns to have good infrastructure, but please don’t do a Westminster and forget the rest of us.

  18. I wonder just how many of the transport problems described in these comments could have been fixed if the unionists hadn’t spent £500 million of Scots taxpayers money on a wee pretendy tram line in Edinburgh.

    I almost forgot – it had nothing to do with providing Edinburgh with something it actually needed, and that their real motive was rig a vote of confidence to try and bring down the newly elected SNP minority government.

    • Mor

      And yet on this BTL string I see someone is complaining quite rightly about poor public transport connections to our airports. The Edinburgh tram should go a long way towards sorting out our main airport so maybe not such a wee pretendy tram line after all. Plus the SG is looking at tram-trains to serve Glasgow Airport, i.e. trams that can use rail infrastructure as well.

      Everone’s got a view on transport, as if it cost next to nothing. If we continue this string long enough I feel sure we’ll be joined by the ‘close all the railways and replace them with motorways’ brigade…

  19. Have you tried to arranging a train journey from Mallaig to Kyle of Lochalsh? A distance of 20 miles as the crow flies will take you 400 (or so) miles by train!

  20. I believe the Victorians talked about building the line between Spean Bridge and Newtonmore which would have made rail travel between Fort William and Inverness possible. Nobody has been brave enough to contemplate it since.

  21. Try the simple 45 mile journey from Perth to Edinburgh. Takes just under 2 hours by train. It’s pathetic really. Theres plenty of people commute to work in Edinburgh from Perth – by car.

    • They travel from Perth to Edinburgh by car because the main line railway to the North through Glenfarg was closed to build the motorway on top of it.

      Seriously, independence will give us a great opportunity to sort out our transport problems.

  22. Our infrastructure has been unfit for purpose for many a decade. Where else in Western Europe would you find one of the main arterial roads linking the most populous region to the North and West coast served by a set of temporary traffic lights for 38 years, as at Pulpit Rock on the A82?

  23. It appears that it is not just our transport infrastructure that needs a makeover.

    BBC strike threat.

  24. smiling vulture

    taxi for newsnight 2014

    Scotland 2014 — fronted by Sarah Smith — had bombed since it replaced Newsnight Scotland, with viewing figures as low as 22,000 last week.

  25. Missed hearing Ken Macdonald in Radio Scotland’s “Headlines” this morning. Hope they haven’t sent him off to Canada on a wild goose chase. Can’t trust the BBC any more. Sad.

  26. jamie macdonald

    I live right beside the stranraer- ayr line and travel by van locally, my nearest station is 4.5 miles south our new timetable gives 6 trains each way a day and is a subsidised diesel train, the roads here are widened and tarred cart tracks, hugging hillsides and through narrow passes and tight bridges, these are regularly used by heavy lorries transporting logs from plantations which the rail line runs through! There was local support for a loading point for the train to be built ‘in the sticks’ but were told the rail bridges would need too much work to carry the weight…meanwhile the road bridges are continually being hit and needing repaired, lorries have came off the road, oh and the potholes…. mr polititian -drive a mile on these roads!

  27. It’s worth remembering that there was a railway line going part of the way from Fort William to Inverness, but it was never completed and eventually the line that did exist was torn up. That was in the days when railways were required to turn a profit, of course: in the current setup, railway operators only have to make a loss and the taxpayer will provide them withe the largesse to keep them going. 😮

    The incident at the BBC only concerns the NUJ, which is a valued but very small part of the trade union members in the BBC.

  28. William Stirling

    Scotland revenues from oil have amounted to Abu Dhabi and Dubai combined. Scotland should be asking where this money has gone! Certainly not Scotland.

    It is a disgrace that Scotland does not even have a motorways between all the major towns and cities.
    It is a disgrace that Scotland does not have the appropriate transport infrastructure between Europe’s oil capital (Aberdeen) and Europe’s Fishing capital (Peterhead).
    It is a disgrace that the transport infrastrcuture throughout Scotland whisky region which accounts for 40% of UK exports is so bad.

    Meanwhile we see 3 billion being spent on Westminster to only refurb a building! 1,300,000,000,000 being spent on replacing trident let alone the H2S, Cross Rail (Euorpe’s largest project) & expansion of London airports etc to see where Scotland’s revenues are going.

    Time for Scotland to wake up and consider the reality. With another oil boom, another vote will Scotland be duped into voting No and seeing ground hog day again.

  29. Travelling across Scotland from where I live in Collieston to Fort William in theory should take 12 hours by public transport but the reality is very different. I got as far as Sneckie by bus and train and then found that Citilink do not allow dogs on their buses, so was forced to travel to Glasgow and up to Fort William (£200+ extra) – a trip of over 200 miles and a whole day to cover 60 miles from Inverness to Fort William.

    On the public transport front in Collieston, after no service for years, an hourly Stagecoach Bluebird 63 Peterhead-Aberdeen bus service has operated from Cotehill Crossroads on Sundays. After a year’s trial, Stagecoach have axed this service. On public holidays, the timetable reverts to a Sunday service, so between Cruden Bay and Newburgh, commuters will once again have no way of catching a bus on public holidays, or a Sunday.Or at night into Aberdeen or Peterhead. For example, when the Energetica Walking & Wildlife Festival took place on May 25th or a beach-clean is organised for Forvie Sands National Nature Reserve, there will be no public transport for ten miles/one third of this vital Energetica development corridor. The 63 service has improved during 2013. However, public transportinto the village is down to three buses a week; the timetable has been replaced by a calendar. Collieston is totally starved of convenient public transport. Access to health and rural isolation are big problems. When the peak weekday connection to Ellon Park-and-Ride (funded by a Scottish Executive Rural Transport Grant) was withdrawn in 2004, villagers were left with 4 buses a week – well-run, all mid-morning, non-Stagecoach operated. In 2010, one of these ‘shoppers services’ was suddenly withdrawn, allegedly in line with public demand. To reach the nearest bus stop, commuters from Collieston must walk each morning and night 2 miles on an unlit road to Cotehill crossroads, whatever the weather.

    In Russian fairy tales, the bluebird is a symbol of hope.

  30. no one has mentioned yet, but the reason for the line closures between Stirling and Dunblane etc is for the electrification work – overhead wires are being installed as far as Dunblane and to do that they first had to remove all the low bridges and put new ones in.

  31. Derek,

    I’ve just seen the disturbing news on about Gary Robertson being pushed out the door by BBC and growing unrest within BBC Scotland and Kezia Dugdale MSP (Lab) taking over from Ken MacDonald plus possible strike action. Is this still just bad management?

  32. That’s the end of BBC Radio Scotland in that case. McQuarrie and his pals are most certainly mad.

    OK, no TV and now no radio either……… until we have our own.

  33. To drive the A9 on a regular basis as I do, is to take your life in your hands.
    P.S. Derek if you ever get the chance can I recommend the Strathspey Steam railway @ Aviemore as means of transport befitting your genteel nature

  34. Newsnet scotland has reported that industrial action at BBC Scotland is seriously being considered after the sacking of Gary Robertson and the needless spending of cash on James Naughtie (who adds nothing to Good Morning Scotland) and Sarah Smith.

  35. Anne
    May I edit your post “James Naughtie (who detracts from Good Morning Scotland with his spluttering, hesitations and misinformation)

  36. Wings informs this morning that the BBC is lying to the population regards Labours Devo Nano proposals.

    Is there any action we can take against this vile lying state broadcaster now that we are in the regulated period, or is the ex BBC chap in charge of the electoral commission a toothless placeman.

  37. A friend let me know the BBC weather forecast yesterday – and it seems they can’t even manage to be accurate with that nowadays. I get my forecast from ” xcweather.co.uk”, which is reliable. Important info in a rural area.

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