ScotRail seeks compensation for delays to new trains

Electric trains Image copyright SNS/PA

ScotRail is seeking millions of pounds in compensation for the late delivery of new trains.

The train operator's managing director Alex Hynes said the firm was looking to recoup the money from manufacturers after months of delays to new trains.

Mr Hynes also told MSPs there had been "some positive signs that performance is improving" in recent weeks.

But the firm was warned of "serious consequences" if ScotRail did not improve punctuality standards.

Giving evidence to the transport, infrastructure and climate change committee, Mr Hynes confirmed ScotRail does not expect to hit its punctuality targets for another two years.

'Working flat out'

He apologised to customers for problems with cancellations and staff shortages in recent months but said the issue was being addressed.

Mr Hynes said only around half of the 70 Hitachi class 385 electric trains were in service, while just three of the 17 refurbished Intercity trains, for use on lines linking Scotland's seven cities, had been handed over to ScotRail from contractor Wabtec.

Asked how much compensation ScotRail was seeking from these firms for the delays, Mr Hynes said: "It is in the order of millions, the penalties are paid by the suppliers who have failed so badly and then the way the franchise agreement works is where we don't fulfil our contractual commitments we pay a 'committed obligation payment adjustment' to the government, which normally works back to back with the commercial contracts in place.

"Our focus is not actually on the money, our focus is on delivering the contract because by delivering the contract we will deliver a better customer service experience."

Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles suggested Mr Hynes "seemed to be in denial" about performance levels, which are below the target of 92.5% of services running on time..

But the rail executive said: "I'm not disputing that we are not yet hitting our target, but we are working flat out to do so. "

Image copyright Getty Images

ScotRail has embarked upon a £18m plan to try and improve its performance for passengers.

This involves leasing three extra trains and hiring more staff, including 55 drivers and 30 conductors.

The remedial plan was demanded by Scottish government after months of disruption to rail services.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson used his appearance at the committee to point out that if ScotRail fails to comply with any of the points in this plan, under the terms of franchise deal, ministers will have the option to terminate Abellio's deal to run Scotland's railways ahead of an existing five-year "break point" in the contract next April.

'Last chance saloon'

The transport secretary said ScotRail was in the "last chance saloon" and the remedial plan was part of a strategy to "use the contract as it stands to maximise the benefit for passengers".

He added: "I've made it very clear to them that the remedial plan is an opportunity for them to get this right.

"If they don't it could have serious consequences for them."

Committee convener Edward Mountain pointed out that the biggest delays in the last year, excluding external events such as weather, are due to ScotRail rather than track operator Network Rail.

The Tory MSP said Network Rail "always seemed to get the blame" but Mr Matheson said: "I don't blame either/or. Both of them have a part to play,"