Scotland

ScotRail racks up £3.3m in performance fines

Scotrail train Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Last month it was announced that Abellio ScotRail's contract to run train services in Scotland is to end early.

Train operator ScotRail was ordered to pay more than £3.3m in fines last year for services failures.

Figures obtained by the Scottish Greens show the rail operator was billed for almost 5,000 failings recorded across stations and rolling stock.

ScotRail said the figures show the service on trains and at stations has improved significantly compared with the same period in 2018.

The data was gathered by Transport Scotland's inspectors.

Last month the Scottish government announced Abellio ScotRail's contract to run train services in Scotland is to end early.

The Dutch firm has been running the franchise since 2015 but had faced criticism over cancellations and performance levels.

The performance data, produced by the Service Quality Incentive Regime (Squire), is gathered by Transport Scotland's inspectors.

They audit all 355 ScotRail stations and a minimum of between 190 and 210 trains at least once every four-weekly cycle.

Image caption Green MSP John Finnie said "significant improvement" is needed on Scotland's rail network

During 2019, a total of 651 "fails" were recorded for ticket office opening hours, along with 294 for train cleanliness and 2,777 for litter, contamination and surface issues at stations.

A total of 1,590 fails were picked up for car parks and taxi ranks, with 1,207 for station lights.

The number of fails for train posters or on-train information was 930 and fails for public address systems was 604.

'Disappointing'

John Finnie, Scottish Greens transport spokesman, said: "This volume of failures shows that significant improvement is required before the Scottish government can claim that Scotland's railways are truly operating in the public's interest.

"Ticket offices, station lighting, platform shelters and toilets are all hugely important to passengers and it's disappointing that so many failures have been recorded.

"The current system of franchising public services out to private operators means that private profit becomes the primary concern and as a result services suffer."

Mr Finnie said there was now a "real opportunity" to put a public-sector operator in place after Transport Secretary Michael Matheson announced Abellio would be stripped of the franchise in 2022.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "The Squire regime, the toughest of its kind in the UK, is a fundamental part of our efforts to improve the passenger experience.

"Any penalties are disappointing, however, this highlights the robust and detailed audit methodology employed."

The spokesman said penalties have dropped by nearly £100,000 from the previous rail period, over £100,000 from the same quarter in 2018-19 and over £500,000 when compared to the same quarter in 2017-18."

He added any penalties are reinvested in improvements to the Scottish rail network, such as upgraded waiting areas on the Edinburgh to Glasgow route.

'Continued investment'

ScotRail said it had continued to invest in CCTV, station environments, customer information and train cleanliness.

David Lister, sustainability & safety assurance director, said: "It's great to see the hard work and effort of our people, to deliver the level of service our customers expect and deserve, continuing to pay off.

"The £475m spent on new and upgraded trains, and continued investment in better stations, and better facilities will ensure we continue to make improvements in the areas that matter most."

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