VITAL train services linking Helensburgh and Lomond with Glasgow are to be suspended next month, writes Andrew Ward.

The morning commuter train calling at Arrochar and Tarbet at 0710, Garelochhead at 0730 and Helensburgh Upper at 0742 has been withdrawn from the company's winter timetable, which starts on December 13.

The service, which also calls at Cardross at 0750, is the only one on the West Highland line which arrives at Glasgow Queen Street before 0900.

From December 13 onwards, the first southbound train of the day on the West Highland route won't arrive in Glasgow until 1131.

ScotRail has blamed the downturn in passenger demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic for the decision – but insists the move is only temporary and that a rise in demand could lead to it being reinstated.

Travellers who board at Oban, where the train starts at 0521, Crianlarich, Ardlui and other intermediate stations on the route will also be affected by the change.

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And it's not the only local service facing the axe: the 0805 'commuter extra' service from Helensburgh Central to Springburn will also be suspended from the start of the winter timetable.

Referring to the cancellation of the West Highland line service. a spokesperson for ScotRail told the Advertiser: “Across all routes, passenger levels are down by around 80 per cent for this time of the year and that means we are reviewing the level of service we will be providing in December.

“While our timetable plans have not been finalised, one service we can confirm will be suspended is the 0521 Oban to Glasgow Queen Street.

"We recognise this is the first train of the day for many communities and its temporary removal will be inconvenient.

“However, that particular service didn’t run between March and August this year and we received no requests to reinstate it.

"We hope the reduction in passenger demand will last for a short period of time and services can quickly be reinstated.

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"We will be letting customers know soon what changes they can expect to services in December."

The spokesperson confirmed that the 0805 from Helensburgh Central to Springburn would also be suspended from December 13 onwards.

Councillor George Freeman, whose Lomond North ward includes the stations at Ardlui, Arrochar and Tarbet and Garelochhead, expressed his disappointed at the news and has contacted the relevant authorities for clarification.

He said: “I have emailed the chief executive within Argyll and Bute Council on this issue to ask if the council was consulted on this cut and I am awaiting a reply.”

Mathieu Docherty, who is a regular commuter on this service, explained how it could affect many individuals who commute to the city daily.

He said: “There are around a dozen or so regulars that I see get on the 0521 between Oban and Crianlarich.

"Then from there, between five and 10 regular faces get on at Arrochar and Ardlui. Then there’s a decent crowd that get on at Garelochhead and Helensburgh Upper, too.”

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