Most ScotRail services back to normal – but Storm Babet challenges remain

Last updated: Monday, 23 October 2023

ScotRail is advising customers that most services will be back to normal on Monday (23 October), but the aftermath of Storm Babet is continuing to have an impact on services – with some trains now not expected to run in Fife until tomorrow morning (Monday) at the earliest.

After several days of extreme rainfall and high winds, almost all routes are open and normal service will resume on Monday morning. ScotRail’s off-peak all-day trial continues, offering passengers cheaper and simpler fares. For more details, visit the ScotRail website here – Off-Peak fares all day long | ScotRail.

Due to the impact of Storm Babet in Fife, a huge number of challenges have been experienced.

Very few trains have been able to run in the worst affected areas since Thursday and that has been compounded by an unprecedented level of leaf-fall which makes tracks very slippery, along with fallen trees and other debris across the rail tracks.

The heat and weight of trains running over the leaves at the weekend have baked them into a thin, slippery layer on the rail, which is the railway equivalent of black ice on the road. When this happens, it’s not safe to run trains.

Network Rail is cleaning the rails using a ‘leaf-buster’ train, which clears the top of the rail by blasting it with a high-pressure water jet to clear leaf mulch. A sandy gel is applied behind the train, that helps the train wheels grip the tracks.

Network Rail has advised ScotRail that there will be disruption to services first thing on Monday. This means that the first trains to carry passengers in Fife will depart Perth to Edinburgh via Kirkcaldy at 06.19 and Glenrothes to Edinburgh via Cowdenbeath at 06.58.

There will be further cancellations and delays to later services so customers should regularly check the ScotRail website, app, and social media channels for updates.

Confirmed cancellations:

  • 05.30 Edinburgh – Aberdeen.
  • 05.40 Dundee – Edinburgh.
  • 05.57 Kirkcaldy – Edinburgh.
  • 06.00 Glenrothes – Edinburgh.
  • 06.00 Perth – Edinburgh.
  • 06.18 Edinburgh – Glenrothes.
  • 06.48 Edinburgh – Glenrothes

The Inverness – Kyle of Lochalsh line will, however, remain closed until at least Tuesday, 24 October due to the amount of stone ballast that has been washed away from the tracks.

And serious flooding near Helmsdale and also near Rogart in the far north means trains are only running between Inverness and Lairg. Buses will replace trains north of this and on the Kyle route.

In other parts of the network, the route between Aberdeen and Dundee remains closed.

Scotland’s Railway has to be completely confident that routes are safe before running any passenger trains, and Network Rail engineers are currently working around the clock to do this.

Specialist maintenance trains are being used to clear leaves from the lines and to make sure tracks are safe.

Scott Prentice, ScotRail Interim Commercial Director, said:

“The vast majority of services will operate as normal on Monday, and we look forward to welcoming passengers to take advantage of our off-peak all day trial.

“Unfortunately, we are still seeing some extremely challenging conditions on the rail network in Fife, the northeast, and the far north caused by the most rainfall experienced in Scotland since 1891.

“Network Rail is working hard to clear debris, including fallen trees, and they are using special ‘leaf-busting’ trains to clear leaf mulch that has made lines in these areas extremely slippery.

“Our first priority is always the safety of customers and staff, and we won’t run services until we are absolutely sure the lines are safe.

“We thank customers for their continuing understanding and patience following Storm Babet in many parts of Scotland and we can assure them that we are doing everything possible to get the last remaining route closures open as quickly as possible.”