ScotRail hopes to see the first of its five ‘Active Travel’ coaches converted from Class 153 single-car diesel multiple-units entering service during the May 2021 timetable. The main challenge is the training of 38 drivers from Oban and Glasgow Queen Street depots whilst coronavirus social distancing rules remain in place.
The conversion of the DMUs owned by leasing company Angel Trains was undertaken by Brodie Engineering. It included a full interior and exterior refresh, installation of wi-fi, power sockets and a refurbished toilet with controlled emission tank and racks for bicycles, sporting equipment and large luggage space.
The cars will operate coupled to Class 156 DMUs, although some careful timetabling will be needed. Some West Highland Line trains currently run as six-car formations as far as Crianlarich, where an Oban portion is detached, and these workings cannot be lengthened any further. Detailed planning of the diagrams is currently underway.
In conjunction with drivers’ union ASLEF modifications have been made to improve the ergonomics of the Class 153 cabs. ScotRail is trying to ensure that the larger cab will normally be used, rather than the much smaller cab installed when the single-car units were first created by splitting two-car Class 155 units.
For the longer term a full recast of the West Highland timetable is being considered in order to reflect the use of the Class 153 vehicles. There is reportedly a view within ScotRail that there could be scope for deploying further conversions if there is a shift in the rail market towards leisure travel following the pandemic.