Scotland

New rail timetables to ease commuter misery

Overcrowded platform Image copyright David Grimshaw
Image caption David Grimshaw from Fife has witnessed multiple incidents of cancelled trains causing passenger build-up on the platform

Scotrail has promised its new timetable will ease misery for rail commuters.

The company has announced improvements to schedules it says will add 20,000 seats to journeys every day.

It said overcrowding and cancellations on Scotland's busiest routes would be addressed when the new timetable starts on 19 May.

And it added there would be more high-speed and electric trains due to completion of the electrification of the line between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The new timetable was announced on Wednesday with the claim trains are now able to seat 625,000 passengers each weekday - 115,000 more seats than when it took over the franchise.

Dissatisfied passengers have been complaining about deteriorating services for the past year.

ScotRail's worst-ever performance came after the operator brought in the current timetable before Christmas

It prompted Transport Secretary Michael Matheson to issue the firm with a remedial notice for breaching performance targets and cancellations.

Alex Hynes, ScotRail's managing director, told BBC Scotland News that improving services was top of their agenda.

He said: "We are working flat out across the ScotRail Alliance to give our customers that improved service.

"We are committed to improving the quality of the experience on Scotland's railway, through this investment in faster journeys, more seats and more services, and this month's timetable change is another milestone in that journey."

He promised that customers would see improvements in services on the east of the country.

Image copyright Chris Speed
Image caption Commuter Chris Speed joins the train at North Queensferry and says it is often reduced from six carriages to three, and is regularly late.
Image caption Even on Wednesday, services from Fife were being cancelled

Mr Hynes said: "In some parts of the country our service has fallen beneath the standards we set for ourselves. That performance is improving and we have more seats going in across the network which will help customers in Fife and the Borders.

The transport secretary has now urged ScotRail to "ensure as smooth a timetable change as possible".

Improved infrastructure

Michael Matheson said: "This Scottish government wants rail to continue to grow, making it an attractive alternative to the car.

"Our ongoing investment is expected to deliver real benefits, not only through improved infrastructure but also as more new and upgraded trains enter service."

In April, almost nine in 10 ScotRail trains ran on time as punctuality reached an eight-month high.

Image caption Commuters feel they are bearing the brunt of cancellations.

Over the month, 89.9% of services arrived at their destination within four minutes and 59 seconds of their timetabled arrival time having called at all scheduled stations.

The picture may be improving but critics think there is a long way to go.

Chris Day from Transform Scotland, an expert on rail policy, said: "Passenger overcrowding has been a long standing problem, particularly on the Fife circle, and it reflects under-investment for decades.

Image caption ScotRail expert Chris Day thinks major investment is required in the rail network

"I can't hold out much hope of radical improvement in Fife. What it does need is significant investment by all the parties concerned, the Scottish government and the rail companies.

"The Scottish government spent £2bn on the new Forth bridge, we would like to see money of that kind of order being put into the railway system."

More on this story