COP26: How did Scotland's public transport fare on day one of the summit?

Less than a week ago, Scotland’s railways were set to grind to a halt as part of widespread strike action from workers angry at poor pay and working conditions.

It would have been a significant embarrassment for Nicola Sturgeon who has, to an extent, staked much of her reputation on a well-oiled COP26.

The strikes – averted at the last gasp by negotiations with trade unions – threatened the commute of thousands of delegates at the climate conference who were staying in Edinburgh and required travel through.

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Trains are one of the most sustainable modes of transport to get around.
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Instead, the journey from Scotland’s capital to its biggest city and onwards to the venue for COP26 showed off the country at very nearly its best and most efficient.

Walking into Edinburgh Waverley, there is no doubt COP26 is underway, with giant signs pointing you in the direction of ‘trains to Glasgow’, all while extolling the climate credentials of the railways.

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Branding for ScotRail – due to be nationalised next year by the Scottish Government – was conspicuous in its absence on these posters.

There were no prizes for punctuality either.

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Trains running on time often feel like rare beasts, and the early morning express service arrived at its platform at the time it was due to leave.

Inevitably, it ran two minutes late until its arrival into Glasgow Queen Street.

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For anyone who has made a journey to a football game at Hampden or to the rugby at Murrayfield, the emptiness of the train given the talk of disruption was comfortable, with more than enough seats to go around.

The same could be said for the short jaunt – via a trip to Greggs for a much needed cup of tea – from Glasgow Central to Exhibition Centre, which was easy, quiet and quick.

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The one downside of the trip is something that will continue to strangle the railway until the Scottish Government gets serious about net zero and extending that to mass transit, and that is the price.

An anytime return costs £17.55, well out of the reach of many Scots and even off-peak, the cost of a trip between Scotland’s two biggest cities is prohibitive.

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For COP26, however, it was disaster averted and Scotland’s railway’s reputation remains intact.

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