The Glasgow Subway system suffered disruption on one in every six days in 2023 on average, our sister title The Herald can reveal.

Services on the underground light metro system - the third oldest in the world - were interrupted on 58 of the 359 days it operated last year, equivalent to around 15% of its operational time. 

The disruption ranged from full or partial closures of the Inner and Outer circles to closures of one or a number of the network’s 15 stations.

August 2023 saw the worst disruption, with Subway services interrupted on eight separate days that month - including one occasion (August 25) where services on the Outer Circle were suspended three times in one day.

Factors involved in the disruption to Glasgow Subway services last year included essential engineering works, signalling faults, power failures, adverse weather (flooding) and alarm activations.

Broken down or ‘defective’ trains caused the most disruption to services on the underground network, resulting in services being unable to operate fully as normal on 30 days in 2023.

‘Passenger-related incidents’ caused the second highest amount of disruption to the network by forcing the temporary suspension of either the Inner and Outer Circles - or in one instance the closure of a station - on eight days last year. 

The entire Subway network was also closed completely on four days in 2023 due to ‘continued Subway modernisation works’.

Responding to The Herald’s investigation, Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney said that the “unreliability” of the transport system “underlines the need to accelerate the modernisation of Subway infrastructure to bring Glasgow into line with other European cities of a similar size”.

He told The Herald: “The reported levels of disruption faced by Glasgow Subway users is clearly not acceptable, and I would welcome SPT confirming the annual performance of the system since the modernisation programme started in 2011.

Glasgow Times: The Glasgow Subway system suffered disruption on one in every six days in 2023 on averageThe Glasgow Subway system suffered disruption on one in every six days in 2023 on average (Image: free)

“Clearly the main issue causing disruptions to services is the increasingly defective 43-year-old trains. It has been good to see the new trains enter operation in the last month or so, which should hopefully help to minimise disruption to services.

“I am looking forward to the phased transition to the driverless capabilities that come with the new trains so that Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) can move to longer opening hours to better serve the travelling public.”

SPT, which runs Glasgow Subway, admitted that the level of disruption witnessed in 2023 “falls short of the service all our staff would wish to provide”. 

A spokesperson told The Herald: “The Subway operated 359 days in 2023 closing on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and for four scheduled Sunday shutdowns to allow for continuing Subway modernisation works. We carried more than 13 million passengers in 2023 and the Subway remains an integral part of the transport network in Glasgow. 

“It is wrong to imply that we lost any days of service due to any incident on the Subway, most events only impact one Circle at a time while service continues on the other Circle. However, we are very aware of the impact on our passengers when services are disrupted for any length of time or for whatever reason. These can vary from train breakdowns, signalling and power failures, and other operational issues as well as passenger incidents requiring assistance from colleagues in the emergency services.

“The current system has been operating for more than 40 years and is unfortunately approaching end of life. We satisfy almost 95% of our timetabled service, in part due to the work and dedication of our engineering and maintenance staff to keep the whole system running, despite many challenges including sourcing parts and equipment. The first of our new Subway trains are now in service with more new trains due to enter service in 2024. Installation of our new signalling system is also underway. 

“We apologise to all our passengers for any disruptions they have experienced which are often only for a short time.”

Last month saw new modernised trains come into passenger service on the underground rail system.

The new trains are the next stage in the Subway modernisation programme as SPT works to replace the Subway’s signalling and communications system. 

Still to come is the introduction of a new operational control centre, which SPT say will be key to improving the availability and reliability of passenger service. 

SPT will also be introducing platform screen doors (PSDs) to station platforms. The screen doors will be ‘half height’ to preserve as much space and openness within the stations as possible while still maintaining passenger safety and security.