Among the clear winners of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games is the Scottish railway industry.
Steve Montgomery, ScotRail’s managing director, acknowledged the exceptional work of the 4,800 staff over the period of Glasgow 2014.
‘Delivering the biggest timetable that Scotland has ever seen would not have been possible without the commitment, enthusiasm and sheer hard work of staff across the business. They pulled together to ensure we helped to deliver a fantastic and successful Commonwealth Games,’ says Steve. He added, ‘I thank everyone for their efforts in the lead up to – and during – the Games. Fantastic contributions were made to deliver Scotland’s biggest ever transport operation, and we should all be incredibly proud of what we have achieved.’
The tributes were paid to engineering teams and train crews as well as planners and track workers.
David Dickson, Network Rail route managing director for Scotland, agrees. ‘Glasgow produced a Games of which the city can be immensely proud, and we are pleased to have been able to play our role in keeping sports fans and regular travellers on the move. With thousands of extra trains and millions more travellers on the network, the rail industry faced a considerable challenge and one which we were only able to match thanks to the commitment and hard work of our staff and those of the train operators,’ says David.
Says Steve Montgomery, ‘With 1.1 million journeys to and from Glasgow 2014 events on our trains, there is no doubt that staff on the ground had their work cut out for them. They rose to the challenge and delivered a fantastic service with laughs and smiles thrown in.’
Rail Projects and Preparation
Rail services for the Games had been the subject of years of preparation. First ScotRail spent over two years planning the biggest train timetable that Scotland had ever seen. Longer in the planning were specific infrastructure projects. £11.5 million was spent re-constructing Dalmarnock’s run- down station in Glasgow’s east end, including moving its entrance to face adjacent sporting venues. Work to the value of £1.6 million at 30 other stations was also done for the Games. Electrification of the Cumbernauld line was completed in May. This released train paths at Glasgow Queen Street High Level and diesel-multiple units to strengthen trains for the Games.
With 27 million passengers per year, Glasgow Central is second only to Birmingham New Street as the busiest station outside London. From 2011 to early 2014 around £10 million was spent renewing its 15 platform surfaces. In addition a further £2 million was spent on a range of improvements to facilities and improvements at the station prior to the Games.
Since 2011, Glasgow’s unique four- foot gauge Subway has been subject to a £288 million modernisation programme, expected to be completed in 2019/20. This programme was phased to ensure station refurbishment at games venues and in the city centre, together with a new ticketing and gating system, was completed in time for the Games.
As with the Olympics the balance between engineering access and train access was changed for the Games.
During the Games, Network Rail suspended major work and scaled back non-essential engineering work in Scotland’s Central Belt. This reduced the potential for engineering work to affect services, allowed trains to run later at night and released staff to respond to faults during the event.
To help get everyone into the spirit of the Games, ScotRail installed sport- inspired signs at a number of stations, for example Falkirk High was renamed Falkirk Higher, Springburn changed to Sprintburn and Polmont became Polevault. ScotRail also gave more than 3,000 of its staff specialist ‘World Host’ customer service training ahead of the Games to ensure a real welcome for those visiting both Glasgow and Scotland this summer.
Glasgow’s Games Venues all had rail or subway stations within easy walking distance. On the west side of the city, Exhibition Centre station serves the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) and Kelvinhall, whilst Ibrox Subway station serves the adjacent Ranger’s football ground.
Further west Scotstounhill serves Scotstoun Sports Campus. On the city’s east side Bellgrove, Bridgeton and Dalmarnock serve Glasgow Green, Celtic Park and the Emirates Arena. To the south Mount Florida is the station for Hampden Park.
Other than Mount Florida, reached from Glasgow Central High Level, all these venues are served by Glasgow’s northern electric lines that run in tunnels under the city centre. Since the opening of the Airdrie to Bathgate line, there are trains from Queen Street Low Level and Bellgrove to Edinburgh.
Most Games journeys required travel through Glasgow Central Low Level and Argyle Street where a special crowd control measure was introduced. Spectators travelling west from the city centre could only do so from Glasgow Central Low Level and those travelling east could only do so from Argyle Street. There was no restriction on alighting at these stations.
Scotland’s Biggest Timetable
ScotRail’s Games timetable was introduced on Monday, 21 July, two days before the opening ceremony. Key features included:
- Eight trains an hour between Exhibition Centre and Dalmarnock, double the current off-peak service.
- A 15-minute service throughout the day on the main route between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Falkirk High.
- Late night trains on almost all routes out of Glasgow running until around 0100, including three limited stop services from Glasgow Central to Haymarket and Edinburgh using long InterCity trains provided by East Coast.
- Large numbers of trains were lengthened with:
- Train length doubled between Glasgow Central High Level and Mount Florida whilst events were held at Hampden Park;
- More than double the number of coaches between Glasgow Queen Street Low Level and Scotstounhill;
- All trains through Glasgow Central Low Level were of six coaches, the maximum for this route. Together with the extra trains this increased capacity on this route by 86 per cent;
- More than three-quarters of trains on the main route between Glasgow and Edinburgh had six coaches, the maximum for this route;
- Longer trains on many long- distance routes between Glasgow and the rest of Scotland.
These extra coaches had to come from somewhere. Some stock was released from changes to maintenance schedules. However, with a national shortage of rolling stock, it was inevitable that commuters on ScotRail’s non-Games routes would suffer. Nearly 150 shorter trains ran each day on these routes. The North Berwick line through East Lothian was reported to be one of the worst affected as passengers at some stations could not get on the trains.
To prevent and minimise delays from incidents British Transport Police (BTP) and Network Rail created a joint Emergency Response Unit for the Games. This used a specially equipped 4×4 vehicle, with a range of specialist equipment, and was crewed by a BTP officer and a Network Rail mobile operations manager. Network Rail’s infrastructure inspection helicopter was also manned by trained BTP air observers to survey the network for potential problems, and if necessary, direct officers on the ground.
Network Rail and the national police force were ready to travel together in marked police vehicles to respond to incidents, such as trespassing or vandalism. This builds on the successful use of similar teams during the London Olympics in 2012.
After years of planning and the busiest eleven days in the history of Scotland’s railways, the results for the Games were as follows:
- 3.7 million passengers passed through Glasgow Central, nearly five times its normal footfall. Its busiest day was 31 July when 454,000 people passed through the station. On the same day Edinburgh Waverley welcomed 187,500 people to the station – three times the normal number;
- 1.4 million miles were travelled by ScotRail trains;
- 1.1 million passenger journeys were made to the 13 Games venues;
- 350,000 passengers came to the Exhibition Centre – nine times the normal amount.
Although the press and Twitter mentioned numerous instances of helpful railway staff, those at Glasgow Central deserve a particular commendation. On a hot 29 July, seven tonnes of free water were handed out to passengers, whilst on a wet 2 August rain ponchos were handed out. They also provided Scottish country dancers to entertain the queues.
Finally, says Andy Miller, ScotRail’s Commonwealth Games project manager, ‘The support of staff was fantastic as more than 1.1 million people travelled with us to and from the 13 Games venues. We used every carriage available to us, including extra trains hired from elsewhere in the UK to ensure we were ready for the unprecedented demand.’