Well perhaps that is over-egging it a bit when talking of the class 158 units, but the refurbished Inverness ones are so much better than their Haymarket brothers or sisters.
FoFNL contributed a lot of input to the specification when Transport Scotland agreed that 25 of the the 44 ScotRail units should be refurbished with much more comfortable seats, seats aligned with the windows and more luggage and bicycle space to make them more nearly fit for purpose for the long 4 hours plus journey from Inverness to Wick. First class accommodation was provided for the Inverness to Aberdeen line services.
We do not yet know how they will be altered, if at all, to make them in to the Tourist Trains promised for the new franchise. Certainly the Edinburgh Haymarket units are long overdue for upgrading and refurbishment. Many of the Inverness units find employment on services within the Central Belt and we have no quibble with that. What was a serious problem for a two year spell up to December 2014 was the number of Haymarket units which were finding their way to Inverness from Aberdeen and sometimes even being used on the Far North and Kyle lines to the discomfort of passengers. Seat reservations were impossible and first class not available on the Aberdeen line. Something was going wrong at Perth or Haymarket early in the morning which seems to have caused this. We made several complaints to ScotRail without much success, but the situation seems to have improved this year, thankfully.
We have now learned that Haymarket depot has been instructed to use Inverness units on the new Borders Railway, when it opens in September, in order to create a good impression. We are delighted to see the Borders getting a rail service again after so long. We are also happy to see the Inverness units being used down there too, but with two provisos.
We look forward to hearing more details about the new Tourist Train proposals and the proposed reliability improvements to the 158s.