Scotrail given eight weeks to come up with plan to get new rail services back on track

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ScotRail has been warned to up its game after a string of cancellations this month and the last sent a red signal to Holyrood.

The remedial plan notice, which the Scottish Government issued because of the company’s poor performance in November and December, comes at a time fed up passengers have been complaining about the fact ScotRail services to Stirling are now not stopping at Polmont Railway Station.

It follows a raft of cancellations in the suburban east sector which exceeded the breach performance level and also applies pre-emptively in relation to ScotRail’s overall performance, as measured by the Public Performance Measure (PPM), which Scottish Ministers expect to fall below the breach performance level for the PPM benchmark during this current reporting period.

ScotRail now has eight weeks to submit a remedial plan and have given their assurances efforts are being made to improve performance before many passengers return to work after the festive period.

Falkirk MSP Michael Matheson, Scottish secretary for transport, said: “We have stressed many times ScotRail must improve, but too often passengers have been left disappointed.

“This month should have been a celebration of the biggest increase in services and capacity, enabled by our ambitious electrification programme. Instead, we are taking this contractual step of issuing a remedial plan notice.

“ScotRail recognises the reasons for this notice and the importance in returning performance across our rail network to contractually acceptable levels. Passengers want and deserve a railway which delivers the benefits of more seats and services on a consistently reliable basis.”

The remedial plan requires ScotRail to set out how they plan to address these performance issues to ensure they can realise the full benefits of the transformational programme to build what was expected to become the best railway Scotland has ever had.

Alex Hynes, the managing director of ScotRail Alliance – a partnership between Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail – stated the operator would comply.

He said: “We know the service our customers have received hasn’t been good enough recently. Everybody at the ScotRail Alliance is working flat out to deliver the improvements our customers expect and deserve.

“ScotRail will submit a remedial plan to Transport Scotland within the eight week timescale outlined.”

ScotRail’s performance has also been criticised by commuters in Polmont, who cannot understand why services to Stirling which pass through Polmont Railway Station are not stopping there to take on passengers any more.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson responded to passengers’ queries by stating the timetable change was made to create faster journey times.

The spokesperson continued: “ScotRail has introduced a half-hourly service between Edinburgh and Glasgow operating via Falkirk Grahamston and Cumbernauld. This service calls at Linlithgow and Polmont allowing these calls to be removed from the Stirling to Edinburgh service facilitating faster journey times.

“Linlithgow and Polmont still retain a service level of four trains per hour to Edinburgh and now have four trains per hour to Glasgow – two via Falkirk High and two via Cumbernauld – with the opportunity to interchange for Stirling at Falkirk Grahamston twice per hour.

“In contrast to the previous situation, Linlithgow and Polmont customers now have a choice of service and better availability of a seat. We are seeing clear evidence that the increase in capacity now being provided is now making a huge difference to the majority of people’s journeys.”

Improvements to ScotRail timetables coming in May 2019

According to Transport Scotland, further improvements to ScotRail timetables are planned for May and December next year once the firm’s new fleet of class 385 trains is fully delivered and operating.

Similar to the process it followed for the December 2018 timetable changes, ScotRail has started its consultation with stakeholders and community groups along the route to seek feedback on the draft May 2019 timetable plans.

ScotRail recently published their draft timetable plans and they are now available to view on the company’s website at www.scotrail.co.uk.

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “Between now and the end of 2019, we are making a series of changes to improve journeys for customers travelling in Central Scotland. We are making changes to the timetable, the stations the trains call at, and the trains we use for these services.

“These changes will make the best of the significant investment in electrification and our new Hitachi class 385 electric trains. The introduction of the new trains will offer improved comfort and offer small journey time savings.

“To make significant improvements to journey times and to provide enough seats for everyone who travels at peak times, we must make structural changes to the timetable.”

People can e-mail proposed-timetable-improvements@scotrail.co.uk to make any comments or observations on the proposed timetable changes.