Swiss-style “scenic trains” with extra legroom and luxury catering could be introduced on the Scottish route considered one of the world’s greatest train journeys.

Scotrail and Transport Scotland are considering replicating the glass-sided and roofed trains on the West Highland Line (WHL) which runs from Glasgow to Mallaig and was popularised in the Harry Potter movies.

Transport Scotland confirmed it is one of five options under consideration as part of plans to decarbonise the country’s rail network by 2035. 

HeraldScotland:

Around 65% of Scotrail’s fleet, including diesel trains on the WHL, will require to be replaced by 2035 to greener models such as electric, battery, and green hydrogen.

The route, which ascends to the UK’s highest railway station at Corrour, has twice been voted the world’s greatest train line.

But while the scenery may be spectacular, there are long-running concerns that the service is not getting the investment it deserves, despite attracting swathes of tourists each year.  

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Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway, which includes ScotRail and track owner Network Rail Scotland, said there was a “massive opportunity” to capitalise on the popularity of the WHL.

HeraldScotland:

Speaking at a rail conference in Glasgow he said passengers were prepared to pay a premium to travel on such trains, which could also be used on the Far North Line, from Thurso to Wick.

He said: “In the coming months, we hope to be going out for procurement for battery electric trains.

“Take the West Highland Line and the Far North Line, which have diesel trains – we are going to have to decarbonise them. We don’t yet know how we are going to do that – electrification or it may be hydrogen.

HeraldScotland:

“But when we go and replace those trains, wouldn’t it be nice to buy some ‘scenic trains’.”

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Of the current fleet of 1037 passenger vehicles, 388 have been switched to greener models. The principal aim is to electrify the network and where this is not possible switch to battery-electric and hydrogen powered trains, which are better suited to rural routes.

Hydrogen gas is stored in tanks on the roof of the train. It reacts with oxygen in fuel cells and generate electricity which powers the wheels. It has the same performance as diesel but its only exhaust is water and steam.

Train manufacturer Alstom said such trains were becoming increasingly popular and often also included extra legroom and premium catering.

Interviewed by Scotland on Sunday, Mr Hynes said he would be very supportive of financing the vehicles.

He said: “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, especially between April and October.

HeraldScotland:

 “I think scenic trains are a very good idea for the north of Scotland – I’d be very happy to buy them because I think they have huge value.

“Scotland has some of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world and I believe the opportunity to see the landscape via a scenic train would be a huge success. I would be very supportive in financing this.”

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Last year, plans were mooted to add more stations to the WHL to help ease congestion in Fort William and “exploit untapped tourism”.

A feasiblity study suggests adding two new stations with one providing access to the Nevis Range ski resort and another at Lochy Bridge, serving pupils travelling to Lochaber High School, which would also create another route to the UK’s highest mountain.

Frank Roach, partnership manager at Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS), which commissed the study, said the plan aimed to build on the premise of Fort William as a “rail holiday experience.”

He said: “We want to provide lots of opportunities for people who are essentially visitor to the area.

“Generally they just add to congestion so this is trying to identify trips that can be made, that they are probably going to make anyway - like going to Ben Nevis - but actually encouraging them to take a train and walk to the hill rather than just driving to the car park.”