ScotRail marks 40 years of evolution on Scotland's Railway

Last updated: Friday, 22 September 2023

ScotRail will proudly celebrate its 40th birthday today (Friday, 22 September), marking four decades of progress and transformation since the brand’s inception on 22 September 1983.

During the past 40 years, Scotland’s Railway has undergone remarkable transformations, ushering in a new era of rail travel in Scotland.

As part of its celebrations, ScotRail has unveiled exclusive footage of some of the nation’s most iconic rail bridges illuminated with stories of its customers and colleagues from over the years.

Featuring the Forth Bridge, New Clyde Bridge, Tay Bridge, and Aberdeen’s River Dee Bridge, the celebratory video also includes historic clips from the past four decades to show the changes that have taken place.

Customers at city centre stations across Scotland’s eight cities will also be treated to a sweet treat this morning, with team members on the ground ready to hand out complimentary ScotRail branded cake pops.

The creation of the ScotRail name in 1983 was part of a rebranding to make rail more competitive with car and bus. The iconic Saltire logo was added to the branding in 2008, on the train operator’s 25th anniversary.

The years following its creation saw a number of significant milestones, marking the evolution of Scotland's Railway following the challenging Beeching era.

To commemorate its 40th anniversary, ScotRail is reflecting on some of the notable achievements and changes that have shaped the train operator into what it is today.

An impressive 81 new or reopened stations have been added - 50 of those were introduced in the first 10 years, starting with Auchinleck and Kilmaurs in 1984. More recently, working with infrastructure operator Network Rail, Reston station was added in 2022, with Inverness Airport station opening in February 2023, bringing the total number of stations in Scotland to an impressive 359.

Many of ScotRail’s stations have been transformed, with some undergoing spectacular renovations, including the redevelopment of Haymarket and the £120million transformation of Glasgow Queen Street.

Scotland’s Railway has seen the reconstruction of four disused or abandoned railway lines, significantly expanding the rail network. These include the Larkhall-Hamilton and Anniesland-Maryhill scheme in 2005, Stirling-Alloa (with a continuation for freight to Kincardine) in 2008, Airdrie-Bathgate in 2010, and the Borders Railway in 2015. The Levenmouth Rail Link will mark the fifth reopened line when it opens in 2024.

With no Sunday service on many routes in 1983, and the only electric services operating in parts of Strathclyde, the timetable looked very different. However, the railway's electrification and modernisation efforts reached Ayrshire in 1986 and North Berwick in 1991. Since 2010, these efforts expanded to encompass all routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow, creating a more efficient, reliable, and green railway.

With electrification came the introduction of new trains, including brand-new Class 380s in 2010 and the Class 385s in 2018, in addition to diesel Class 156s, 158s, and 170s.

Over the years, customers have witnessed a modernisation of ScotRail’s services, including the introduction of self-service ticket vending machines, online ticket retailing, and the convenience of mTickets.

Bicycles are now welcome on trains for free, more cycles spaces have been provided at stations and on trains, and passengers with limited mobility have been given better assistance.

Customers have benefited from better travel information with the introduction of on-train and at-station information screens, social media updates, and improved security measures. The rollout of 24-hour CCTV and Help Points has contributed to the safety and peace of mind of passengers.

Increasing efforts have been made to create a workforce as diverse as the communities it serves, with staff recruited from more diverse backgrounds.

On Monday, 2 October, the train operator will launch its six-month trial for cheaper and simpler fares on ScotRail services with customers able to travel all day on off-peak fares until the end of March 2024.

As part of the Scottish Government’s Decarbonisation Action Plan, ScotRail is working on plans which will see diesel trains removed from the network in the long-term.

Joanne Maguire, ScotRail Chief Operating Officer, said:

“We're delighted to celebrate ScotRail’s 40th birthday, recognising our role in connecting the people of Scotland.

“If you arrive at any station in Scotland, you’ll be greeted by the iconic ScotRail brand, and the world-famous Saltire on our trains.

“The past 40 years have been remarkable, with the introduction of new stations, new trains, reopening of disused railway lines, and the modernisation of the services available to customers.

“Of course, there have been challenges on a network that runs from Thurso to Carlisle, but the future holds even greater promise with further growth as we continue to innovate and improve our services.

“As we celebrate this milestone, we renew our commitment to delivering a safe, reliable, and green railway for our customers.

“We thank our loyal customers for their support and look forward to serving the people of Scotland, and beyond, for many more years to come.”

Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Transport, said:

“ScotRail is part of the fabric of Scotland and this anniversary is testimony to the dedication of its staff. So much has changed and been achieved since ScotRail came into being, with many of the staff today having been there since the beginning. I’d like to thank them all, particularly given the challenges they faced in recent years.

“We are committed to making ScotRail flourish for the next 40 years and beyond to ensure we can make public transport an attractive alternative to the private vehicle. This is evident with the new stations we are building, the new lines we are opening, the electrification we are completing, and our forthcoming peak fares removal pilot.

“As we mark World Car Free Day today and look to our own Big Car Cool Off, there has been no better time to take the train.”