Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Sturgeon 'sorry' for rail disruption after Edinburgh train breakdown

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Media captionNicola Sturgeon: "I am sorry for the disruption that was caused this morning"

The first minister has apologised to rail passengers in parts of Scotland after a broken-down train in Edinburgh caused severe disruption.

Nicola Sturgeon said the "deeply regrettable" problem was caused by "an extraordinary set of circumstances".

The early-morning breakdown between Waverley station and Haymarket affected services across the central belt.

It also caused delays to trains travelling to Inverness, Aberdeen and on the Borders Railway.

Speaking at First Minister's Questions, Ms Sturgeon told the chamber: "I am sorry for the disruption that was caused this morning and also sorry for any disruption that any passenger faces on any day of the week, that is ScotRail's position and it is also mine."

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale raised the issue of the train problems saying it had been "yet another shambolic day on our railways, causing misery for passengers".

It followed ScotRail being fined £483,000 for failing to meet required standards for trains and stations.

The franchise also announced on Wednesday that it was to stop its much-criticised policy of allowing late-running trains to skip stops to improve punctuality during rush hour.

Image caption The train broke down between Waverley and Haymarket

Ms Dugdale said: "Figures show that, even on a normal day on Scotland's rail network, a fifth of trains are late.

"Passengers deserve better and it is this SNP government's responsibility to fix it.

"Overcrowded trains, delayed trains, cancelled trains: that's the SNP's idea of a 'world-leading' deal for passengers.

"SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said he had confidence in an improvement plan handed to ministers.

"But passengers are fast losing confidence in him. How bad does it have to get before the first minister steps in and sorts out this mess?"

Ms Sturgeon said there were "wider performance issues" around ScotRail right now.

'Accept responsibility'

She added: "That's why there is an improvement plan that Humza Yousaf is monitoring very closely.

"But I hope all members would accept that however regrettable it is, and it is deeply regrettable, on occasion trains will break down whatever party is in government.

"The government does accept our responsibility in this matter and we are working with ScotRail to make sure the train services are of a standard that the travelling public has a right to expect.

"In terms of the wider issue, the standard that ScotRail is expected to meet is 91% against punctuality standards. That, generally at the moment, is at about 89%, although there will be variations to that. That is not good enough.

"That is why just this week we heard plans about additional trains coming into service, about ScotRail rightly ceasing the practice at peak-hour times of missing stops where trains are running late.

"So these are serious issues that affect the travelling public on a daily basis.

"In a wider sense, there are options for the [ScotRail] contract to be broken early and we will keep that option under review."

Image caption Nicola Sturgeon is "absolutely" confident in Humza Yousaf as transport minister

The first minister and Mr Yousaf had a conference call with ScotRail boss Phil Verster on Thursday morning, and Mr Yousaf said he would spend the peak evening travel hours at the group's control room in Glasgow.

He said he would also be at the "busiest stations" on Friday morning during peak travel hours.

Aslef, the train drivers' union, called for Mr Yousaf to be sacked.

General secretary Mick Whelan said the government's response to the "rail crisis" had been "pathetic".

He said: "Nicola Sturgeon must take personal responsibility for this situation as her government awarded this contract. She should sack her incompetent transport minister.

"You can't control what you don't own so the Scottish government should do the decent thing and return the railway to public ownership."

Ms Sturgeon's spokeswoman said the first minister had "absolutely" confidence in Mr Yousaf as transport minister.

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