Rail franchises operators & contracts

24.11.16

Transport minister:  ScotRail has learned lessons after recent chaos

Scottish transport minister Humza Yousaf sought to reassure MSPs that “ScotRail has learned lessons” after receiving severe criticism for problems on Scotland’s railways.

In an emergency statement at Holyrood yesterday, Yousaf apologised to rail passengers affected by a recent history of disruption after overheard wiring problems severely affected services in Glasgow earlier in the day.

Yousaf admitted that while ScotRail’s performance was not “up to scratch”, it was higher than the UK average. He also outlined a number of actions the government had agreed with ScotRail including an earlier commuter service between Inverness and Scotland’s central belt and more carriages for peak services to reduce overcrowding.

He told the Scottish Parliament: “Everyone rightly expects a railway network that operates effectively. So when things go wrong I fully understand the dissatisfaction of passengers and the inconvenience that is caused.

“Although there are no guarantees major failures won't happen, I give my reassurance that ScotRail has learned lessons and is far better prepared for contingencies, including communication with passengers, when such incidents do take place.”

Yousaf highlighted several current commitments made by the Scottish government to improve the railway which included a £5bn five-year programme to “transform the railway”; £475m for new trains, and the acceleration of £16m over two years to upgrade key infrastructure.

The reliability of ScotRail trains has been under intense scrutiny since Abellio took over the franchise, with this the latest in a series of incidents affecting the beleaguered rail service. Yousaf was under pressure last week after a train breakdown near Edinburgh led to widespread cancellations across the central belt, leading first minister Nicola Sturgeon to apologise during FMQs.

ScotRail was ordered to produce a performance improvement plan in September after the service did not meet punctuality and reliability targets. Abellio said that the operator was working in collaboration with Yousaf and Transport Scotland in order to ensure improvement.

“Scotland's railways are undergoing an unprecedented period of investment and modernisation, addressing a legacy of underinvestment and ensuring that we have a railway of which Scotland can be proud,” said Charlotte Twyning, director of policy, strategy and communications for Abellio UK.

“It is inevitable that managing an increasingly busy rail service while this important work is being undertaken will lead to some disruption, and it is our job to better engage with passengers to explain what is happening and listen to their frustrations. We appreciate their patience as this work is undertaken.”

Between 16 October and 12 November 86% of ScotRail trains were on time or less than five minutes late. Although there were wide variations in reliability across Scotland, the operator’s performance was still better than average for all UK train operators along with its customer satisfaction.

However, Abellio’s contract to run ScotRail requires a 91.3% punctuality rate with the government permitted to cancel the contract if performance dips below 84.3% for three months in a row.

Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said that ScotRail had become worse since the improvement plan was demanded and urged Yousaf to make the full document public.

Bibby said: “Yousaf’s handling of the rail crisis has seen him fall out with Abellio, Network Rail and the transport unions. He claims he's not a transport expert - and he's right. He must ditch the spin and publish his 246 point improvement plan in full.”

In a response letter to Bibby, Abellio commented that it is currently delivering a £475m investment programme, compared to an investment of only £110m from October 2004 to March 2015. 

“It is unrealistic to expect the scale of infrastructure investment and modernisation to be undertaken (the largest of its kind since Victorian times) with little or no disruption to the travelling public,” wrote Mike Connelly, communications and public affairs director for Abellio in Scotland.

“It is our job to ensure that the travelling public understand what this transformation programme looks like and to better explain what the implications are for them, particularly when things go wrong. We will make every effort to improve the way we do that in the coming weeks and months.”

The Scottish government previously announced that it intends to use the additional rail powers provided to it through the Scotland Act 2016 which allows public-sector bodies to bid for future Scottish rail franchises. Abellio indicated that it would “gladly” compete with a public sector bidder for the franchise in the future.

 Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Verster to leave ScotRail for East West Rail

20/01/2017Verster to leave ScotRail for East West Rail

Phil Verster will be leaving his current position as ScotRail’s managing director, which he has held since 2015, to become the MD of the Ea... more >
Khan accused of lying over failure to extend TfL fares freeze to travelcards

20/01/2017Khan accused of lying over failure to extend TfL fares freeze to travelcards

London mayor Sadiq Khan has been accused of reneging on his pre-election pledge of a TfL-wide fares freeze after it was revealed that it would ha... more >
‘Transformational change’ in Wales franchise hinges on new trains and electrification

20/01/2017‘Transformational change’ in Wales franchise hinges on new trains and electrification

A committee of MPs has urged the Welsh and UK governments to end underdevelopment of the Welsh rail network, pointing to the new Wales and Border... more >

editor's comment

17/01/2017Rising to the digital demand

The countdown is well and truly on for this year’s UK Rail Industry Awards (UKRIA), and the whole RTM team is looking forward to welcoming you to the fourth edition of this event on 9 February.  Held once again at Battersea Evolution, the prestigious awards ceremony promises to be an extraordinary evening, celebrating some of the major achievements of the industry in the last year. You can see the awards shortlist on pag... read more >

last word

Making rail fares simpler

Making rail fares simpler

David Sidebottom, passenger director at Transport Focus, explains how a number of initiatives over the next 12 months aim to make rail fares simpler. By the end of 2017, we hope passengers w... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Commuters close to taking government to court over Southern crisis

06/01/2017Commuters close to taking government to court over Southern crisis

A commuter organisation looking to take the DfT to court over its handling of the Southern rail crisis have said that their legal challenge is almost ready. The Association of British Commuters (ABC) hopes to submit its full application calling for a judicial review by the end of this month, after initially raising funds for the challenge... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

Exhibitors prepare for France’s rail technology showcase

20/01/2017Exhibitors prepare for France’s rail technology showcase

Florence Gaidet from Mack Brooks gives RTM an update on what people can expect from SIFER 2017, France’s showcase for railway technology, p... more >
The data-driven railway

20/01/2017The data-driven railway

RTM speaks to James Dean, Network Rail’s director of route asset management (DRAM), LNW, about the work the infrastructure owner is carryin... more >
Achieving efficiency through standards

17/01/2017Achieving efficiency through standards

Vaibhav Puri, head of standards policy at the RSSB, attempts to bust the myths around standards, and argues that they will be vital to the tradin... more >
A digital railway for a modern Britain

17/01/2017A digital railway for a modern Britain

David Waboso CBE, managing director of Group Digital Railway, discusses using digital technology and how we must work together better as an indus... more >

rail industry focus

View all News

interviews

Investing in the future of Scottish Rail

15/11/2016Investing in the future of Scottish Rail

Phil Verster, managing director of ScotRail Alliance, speaks to RTM’s Luana Salles about the recently-published ‘Investing in the Fut... more >