DELAYS in introducing long-promised six-carriage trains on the crisis-hit North Berwick to Edinburgh service have been put down to the wrong kind of windscreen being installed.

ScotRail Alliance representatives told a public meeting - called over the ongoing problems on the packed service - that the new trains had been held up because tests found drivers could not see the red stop signal through the windscreens.

They said safety concerns meant all 78 of the new Hitachi 385 trains which were bound for the Edinburgh to Glasgow and Edinburgh-North Berwick lines had been put on hold until a solution could be found.

Last Thursday's public meeting, called by East Lothian politicians Martin Whitfield MP and Iain Gray MSP, saw Phil Campbell, ScotRail Alliance's head of customers services and five other representatives of the train firm face a grilling from members of the public over problems on peak hour services.

Mr Whitfield told Mr Campbell that he experienced the London Underground rush hour and said: "I can assure you the experience of rush hour trains here is as bad as rush hour on the underground in London."

He said this was the third public meeting he had been involved in between representatives of ScotRail and people in the county over the last few years and people remained "disappointed" by the promises of change made which had not materialised.

And he said at the meeting in Prestonpans Town Hall: "There is concern that if there is a serious accident or incident on these peak hour services there is a real danger people are going to be seriously hurt."

Mr Gray, who called a similar meeting with ScotRail last year, said: "When we think about rail services in East Lothian we have some significant aspirations for new and improved services.

"ScotRail gave some commitments and made assurances in the past and these have not materialised."

Sue Evans, of ScotRail, told the meeting that the problem with the new Hitachi trains was down to an issue with the windscreens.

She said: "The drivers are seeing a shadow when there is a red signal in from of them which makes them not safe to drive.

"While the windscreen problem is ongoing they cannot come into service."

She said ScotRail were working with the train manufacturers to resolve the issue and expected the "vast majority" of trains running at peak hours on the North Berwick to Edinburgh line to be six-carriage services by December with plans for all services to be covered by the new longer trains by January or February next year.

However there was frustration from people at the meeting which saw more than 60 members of the public turn up, at more delays.

One woman said: "The worry and anxiety caused for people just trying to get to work is awful. We don't need to hear more promises for months ahead, we need something done now."

East Lothian Councillor Colin McGinn challenged Mr Campbell to join him on a train journey on the line at rush hour during the upcoming Edinburgh Festival to experience the issue firsthand.

He said: "I use the service four days a week and it is a disgrace. I've come home at 11.10pm on a train with six carriages and 25 people on it, while coming home at rush hour there is a four carriage train with people crushed on.

"I have been on the train when two women physically fainted. I think Mr Campbell should come on the service during the Festival at peak time and experience it himself."

Mr Campbell told Councillor McGinn he would be happy to accept his invitation.

Other issues raised included the continued practice of terminating the Edinburgh to North Berwick service at Drem when the train was running late.

Harry Barker, chairperson of East Lothian Community Rail Partnership, told ScotRail representatives he had personally experienced this many times.

He said: "I was on the train when 80 to 100 people were dumped onto the narrow platform at Drem after the train was terminated, only for the high speed service to fly past moments later creating danger to those on the platform.

I pointed this out to Phil Verster (former ScotRail Alliance managing director) who said it would stop immediatlely. It has not stopped.

"Drem is in the middle of nowhere, people often don't even know the service is being terminated there until they have reached the previous stop of Longniddry."

ScotRail said the practice of "skipping stations" had been almost eradicated since new practices were introduced on April 1, with only one in 3,000 services in the East Lothian line skipping a station to make up time.

However it was pointed out terminating the Edinburgh to North Berwick train at Drem was not classed as "skipping stations" but as a "partial cancellation".

Following the meeting Mr Gray said he was please ScotRail had sent representatives.

He said: "It was clear from the number of people attending and the questions asked that many serious problems remain, not least persistent overcrowding on peak services.

A ScotRail Alliance spokesperson said: “It was good to speak to the community in Prestonpans to hear directly about the aspects of the rail service that they’re most concerned about. We take very seriously all that was discussed and already have some solutions in place. Looking further ahead, planned investment and new trains will deliver the rail service that this very popular residential area needs.”