Flying Scotsman back on the rails after U-turn

The Flying Scotsman crosses the Royal Border Bridge in Berwick on its way to Edinburgh Waverley yesterday. Picture: Aaron Wilson
The Flying Scotsman crosses the Royal Border Bridge in Berwick on its way to Edinburgh Waverley yesterday. Picture: Aaron Wilson

Flying Scotsman will take to rail tracks in the Borders today after Network Rail reversed a decision to cancel trips at short notice.

The track operator said on Friday night that the famous steam locomotive would no longer be able to undertake planned tours in Scotland today because it had not been able to carry out safety assessments on some lines.

The decision dismayed hundreds of rail enthusiasts planning to see the recently refurbished steam engine and after an outcry led by Scotland’s Transport Minister Derek Mackay, Network Rail reversed its position and said checks had been carried out overnight to allow the train to take to the track.

The famous steam engine arrived at Edinburgh Waverley to fanfare on Saturday evening and will travel on the new Borders Railway to Tweedbank today before travelling across the Forth Bridge.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne offered a ‘’wholehearted and sincere apology’’ for the earlier cancellation which Mr Mackay described as a “debacle”.

An investigation is still to take place into the reasons for the premature cancellation.

Mr Carne said: “Engineers and analysts have worked hard to find a way to get the necessary safety checks and engineering assessments done.

‘’I am pleased to say that we have been successful and are now able to reinstate the original planned tours of Flying Scotsman in Scotland on Sunday.

‘’I wholeheartedly and sincerely apologise for the consternation caused by the premature announcement yesterday.

‘’Once the tours have been safely and successfully run, I will be instigating a full investigation into how this problem occurred on our railway in Scotland.’’

Excursion operators Steam Dreams said Network Rail had known about the trips for months but left work ‘’until the last minute’’.

Mr Mackay said: ‘’I hope that many people will now get to enjoy the experience of Flying Scotsman returning to Fife, Midlothian and the Borders.

‘’This however does not explain how we ended up in this farcical situation, nor will it comfort the many people who have been looking forward to this day and have had to amend or cancel travel plans at the last minute.

‘’This is not the end of the matter, I am still committed to seeing a full investigation into the reason why the initial work by Network Rail GB was not completed in time and how it was mishandled so badly.’’

MSP Christine Grahame said: “I’m delighted to hear the Flying Scotsman visit to the Borders is back on but I am still calling for an investigation into why Network Rail cancelled in the first place. This should never have been allowed to happen.

“Well done to Scottish Government transport minister Derek Mackay for all of his efforts in making sure the event still goes ahead.

“Questions still remain about the nature of the announcement and of course people may have cancelled already so I will still be pursuing the matter early next week.”

Built in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in 1923, Flying Scotsman pulled the first train to break the 100mph barrier in 1934.

The National Railway Museum in York bought the locomotive for £2.3 million in 2004 before work got under way on its decade-long restoration two years later.