ScotRail has been branded “a farce” by a Fife MSP as timetable changes and industrial action created a double whammy for travellers.
Labour MSP Alex Rowley added to criticism of the beleaguered rail operator after passengers travelling between Edinburgh, Fife and Aberdeen endured widespread cancellations described by Scotland’s transport minister as “unacceptable”.
“It is evident to most people using ScotRail services in Fife and indeed, elsewhere, that the extent of overcrowding is at unacceptable levels, on top of this the actual service they receive is increasingly poor,” said Mr Rowley.
“I am asking ScotRail and the Scottish Government what actions are being taken to address the problems of overcrowding on the Fife Circle? Also what actions are being taken to reduce the number of cancellations that people are experiencing?
“And more generally what is ScotRail doing to improve the service experienced by customers using ScotRail services? Because this is starting to become a farce.”
Transport minister Michael Matheson told Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee that the travelling public deserved better.
Mr Matheson said ScotRail had not done enough to keep passengers informed of service disruption, adding that a shortage of train crew had caused an “unacceptable level of cancellations”.
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He added: “They should have communicated that much more clearly, at a much earlier stage, to allow the public to understand the potential impact it would have had on the services they were looking to use.”
Following a weekend of travel chaos for rail travellers Mr Matheson met ScotRail Alliance managing director Alex Hynes who said the problem was caused by a delay in the arrival of refurbished rolling stock from Hitachi leading to training delays, combined with an industrial dispute.
The arrival of the new Hitachi electric trains coincides with major timetable changes due to be introduced on Sunday.
Hitachi and Wabtec have let us down, with late arrival of new and upgraded trains, which we need to operate our new December timetable. This means the time available to train our staff on these trains has been compressed. 1/2
— ScotRail (@ScotRail) December 5, 2018
Since October, ScotRail members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union have been instructed not to volunteer to undertake any overtime and rest day working.
The row centres around what the RMT says is discriminatory treatment of staff, with only driver grade employees offered enhanced pay for working rest days. RMT is calling for equality across all grades.
A ScotRail spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to our customers who have experienced disruption to their journey.
“The majority of the impact is a result of our final push to deliver the December timetable improvements which will bring faster journeys, more seats, and more services for our customers.”
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said he had “called on the Scottish Government to light a rocket under the failing ScotRail bosses”.
He added: “Over the course of the past weekend travellers have had to put up with performance on our railways that has been nothing short of shambolic.
“To add insult to injury ScotRail are planning on hiking prices in the New Year by an average of 2.8% and on scrapping the Kids Go Free promotion.”