Passengers on Scottish train line express dissatisfaction with chilly temperatures, dubbing it the “Polar express”.

Passengers on Scottish train line express dissatisfaction with chilly temperatures, dubbing it the “Polar express”.

The “polar express” nickname has been given to a train that passes through Scotland’s famous Highland landscapes, as its interior is extremely cold and passengers often pack additional layers for warmth.

Commuters who take the West Highland line from Oban to Glasgow report that the temperature in the train’s carriages often drops below freezing, causing them to bring additional layers of warm clothing such as insulated coats, gloves, hats, and scarves.

People who were interviewed by BBC Scotland mentioned that the residents in the area jokingly referred to it as a nod to the animated film The Polar Express, starring Tom Hanks, which follows a train on a mystical journey to the Arctic.

On January 18th, Ann McLachlan, a resident of Taynuilt, a village east of Oban, and her husband Terry Halcrow, endured a treacherously cold journey with temperatures reaching -10.4C (13.28F).

According to her, while speaking to BBC Scotland, Halcrow had multiple layers of clothing on and was huddled up in an attempt to stay warm. She mentioned that Halcrow is from Shetland and has experience working in the North Sea, so he is accustomed to cold temperatures, but he was still extremely cold.

“Consider if, instead of him, it was a man or woman with a young child or a frail elderly person. After we expressed our dissatisfaction, ScotRail apologized for the lack of enjoyment – but this was not a matter of quality, rather a concern for health and safety.”

The nationalised transportation company in Scotland, ScotRail, stated that the Class 156 trains, which were primarily constructed in the 1980s, utilized additional heat from their diesel engines to warm the train carriages.

David Lister, the director of safety, engineering, and sustainability for the company, explained that starting the first services of the day could be a difficult task. ScotRail is currently exploring potential long-term solutions and funding options that could enhance the onboard temperatures for our passengers.

Neil McInroy from Oban stated that the cold temperatures on the train were a regular occurrence and not just limited to the early morning. He shared a personal experience of having to bundle up with all the items in his bag, including hats, jackets, and jumpers, when taking the train for a weekend trip.

“It typically takes three hours to complete the journey, but frequent delays often prolong the trip. Additionally, if the train’s carriage is cold, it can be quite unpleasant. The conditions can be quite chilly.”

According to him, he encountered an elderly couple in their seventies who complained about feeling cold. Due to the lack of trolley service on their train, they were unable to warm up even with a cup of tea. He expressed that this was not a pleasant way for them to begin their vacation. He also mentioned that Oban serves as a gateway to the Highlands and islands, making it a poor representation of Scotland.

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Iain Cameron, a specialist in measuring the amount of snow in Scotland, tracks the decreasing size of the only remaining snow patch in the country, called the Sphinx, every summer. He also noted that ScotRail trains in the Cairngorms and southern Highlands face the same issue.

He reported being on the 07.43 train from Stirling to Inverness in mid-January for three hours in the freezing cold. He mentioned that the weather was sub-zero, which is typical for that time of year. He was fortunate to have his heavy down jacket, but it still wasn’t sufficient to keep him warm.

“It can be difficult to warm up after sitting for three hours, even if you are wearing a warm jacket. Everyone in my train carriage was bundled up, but one woman seemed particularly cold, constantly rubbing her hands from Perth to Aviemore.”