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Glass-Topped Trains Proposed for Scenic West Highland Line

Scotland’s scenic West Highland Line may soon be enjoyed from the luxury of Swiss-style glass-sided and roofed scenic trains.

Passengers on Scotland’s west Highland Line could soon be enjoying stunning views from fully glazed trains such as this. Photo Credit Deba Pratim

The 164-mile route travels north along Scotland’s west coast, through Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, past Loch Awe to Oban, or high up to Rannoch Moor and on to Fort William and Mallaig.

As the setting for the Hogwarts Express, the journey will be familiar to fans of the Harry Potter movies, was voted the world's top rail journey in 2009, beating off rivals such as the Trans-Siberian Express and Peru’s Macchu Pichu Line.

The line is already a huge tourist draw with steam locomotive The Jacobite, which only runs from May to October, carrying 70,000 passengers a year.

The Jacobite Steam Locomotive crosses the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct on the West Highland Line. Photo credit Gabriela Palai.

In a speech to the Rail Scotland Conference in Glasgow earlier this month, Managing Director of Scotland’s Railway, Alex Hynes, stated that zero-emissions scenic trains could replace current diesel-fuelled rolling stock as part of Transport Scotland’s decarbonisation strategy.

“People are prepared to pay a premium for scenic trains with glazed body sides. We need to find a business model to tap into that market…” Hynes said.

Tourism plays a particularly important part in the Scottish economy, Hynes suggests that the country’s scenic railway lines could play a large part in promoting the industry. Mr Hynes added that in the coming months, he hoped those in charge of procurement would be going all out to secure electric battery-powered trains.

A feasibility study conducted in 2022 concluded the addition of two new stations, one providing access to Ben Nevis and its ski resort, and another serving pupils travelling from Loch Bridge to Lochaber High School could ease congestion and also give a boost to the tourist industry.

Photo credit : Derek Lewis

Scotland has already electrified 76% of passenger and 45% of freight journeys, but Transport Scotland’s ambitious Rail Services Decarbonisation Action Plan plans to electrify approximately 130 single-track kilometres per year to reach its zero-emissions target by 2035.

Where electrification is not feasible such as more rural routes, green solutions such as hydrogen and electric battery-powered trains will be considered.

Scotrail Media Relations Officer Graeme Bulloch was contacted regarding the possibility of zero-emissions scenic trains replacing the current diesel-powered engines.

Mr Bulloch stated that Scotrail had no additional comments to add to what has already been reported.


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