ScotRail forecasts it will be 2021 before it meets punctuality target

ScotRail train Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption ScotRail's performance has come into sharp focus in recent months.

ScotRail has admitted it does not expect to hit its punctuality targets for another two years.

The train operator's forecast suggests it will be 2021 before it reaches the target of 92.5% of services running on time.

A review commissioned by regulators states ScotRail faces "significant challenges" in meeting the target.

The operator does, however, expect to see some substantial improvements by March this year.

Ministers have ordered ScotRail to improve its performance following a recent surge in cancellations.

The train operator has apologised to customers and says its staff are working "flat out" to make the service better.

New trains

The most recent problems have been blamed on training issues with new trains, while strikes, engineering works and storms have also had an impact in recent years.

Under the terms of the ScotRail franchise, operator Abellio is expected to hit a target of 92.5% of trains arriving at their final destination within five minutes of the advertised time.

The current "public performance measure" (PPM) punctuality target - measured as a moving annual average - stands at 87.3%.

An internal performance strategy document for ScotRail shows this is expected to hit its franchise target of 92.5% by March, 2021.

A four weekly measurement of PPM is expected to improve before this point, with the ScotRail strategy document suggesting this measurement will hit 92.4% by March this year.

Image copyright ScotRail
Image caption ScotRail staff are being trained to operate new Hitachi class 385 electric trains

The ScotRail punctuality forecasts are contained in an independent review of the train operator's performance commissioned by UK-wide regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

The ORR asked consultancy firm Nichols to assess how well ScotRail was complying with a 2017 review by rail industry expert Nick Donovan on how the train operator could improve its punctuality.

The Nichols report praised ScotRail's increased focus and momentum around performance management, as well as better focus at and senior and working levels. However, it raised concerns about how much progress was being made.

It states: "Despite the evidence of significant activity in regard to the implementation of the recommendations since the publication of the Donovan Report, there has been a further decline in performance and this raises questions about when the positive effects from implementation of the recommendations will materialise".

In concludes that hitting the 92.5% PPM target presents a "significant challenge" - especially given it is a much tougher target than what is being achieved in other rail franchises across the UK.

Stop skipping ban

A ScotRail spokesman said: "We're really sorry to customers for the recent disruption to services. We know the impact this has on your day, and are working flat out to get things back to normal.

"Actions from the Donovan review have been praised in the Nichols report, and these actions have seen the banning of stop-skipping except as a last resort and improvements in train reliability.

"But our performance is not where we want it to be, and as this year progresses our customers will see improvements."

Transport secretary Mr Matheson has warned Abellio could be stripped of its franchise if does not improve its performance.

Scottish Labour's transport spokesman Colin Smyth MSP said: "The truth is this failing franchise has never met its performance target and no one now seriously believes they ever will, even by 2021.

"Michael Matheson has turned a blind eye to ScotRail's appalling record of failure and left passengers to suffer delays, cancellations, overcrowding and yet another hike in fares."

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