Published: 17th August 2015
In its final year running the previous ScotRail franchise, First was fined a total of £576,000 under the performance regime, an increase of £127,000 on the year before.
Announcing this on 14 August, the Scottish Government’s agency Transport Scotland said that there had been improvements including graffiti on stations and shelters but increased penalties reflected other areas such as train cleanliness and train graffiti.
Transport Scotland pointed out that First ScotRail performed better than the average for UK train operators in the 2015 National Rail Passenger Survey published in Spring 2015.
First Group was reported by BBC Scotland as pointing to the customer satisfaction figure of 87 per cent in the survey, adding that First ScotRail had been named as Rail Operator of the Year on three occasions. In 11 years, First ScotRail had invested more than £82 million and delivered improvements with an increase of 34 per cent in passenger numbers.
Scotland’s Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay MSP, described the Service Quality Incentive Regime (SQUIRE) as one of the most rigorous and effective methods of performance assessment for any rail franchise in the UK. He expressed his confidence that the system of penalties and rewards proved effective in driving up standards.
“Transport Scotland are continuing to work with the new franchise holder to ensure that these high standards are upheld, that management are focussing on addressing the issues that are most important to the public, and that we continue to run a safe, clean and reliable rail service across the whole of Scotland,” Mr Mackay added.
The agency said that the annual comparison was not exact because the normal reporting year for SQUIRE ran from June to June but adjustments were made to take account of the fact that the final year of the First ScotRail franchise was for the 12 months beginning 1 April 2014.
First ScotRail handed over to the new ScotRail franchise run by Abellio after 31 March 2015 and this was the final message from FirstGroup:
“We are immensely proud to have operated Scotland’s railways for the past 11 years, and to have delivered unmatched levels of service and quality. Since 2004, First ScotRail has invested more than £82 million in Scotland’s railways, delivering increased frequencies, upgrades to trains and stations and increasing the number of passengers by 34%. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our passengers for their support and custom.
“We will be handing over Scotland’s railways in a very strong position. Passenger numbers are at an all-time high, with more than 86 million passenger journeys being made in the last year, and satisfaction is at record levels of over 90% in the latest National Rail Passenger Survey - eight points higher than the national UK average, and six points higher than when we took over the franchise.
Punctuality has also risen from 84% in 2004 to a record high of 95% today. Our achievements have been recognised by the industry as we have been awarded the title of Rail Operator of the Year three times in the last six years.
“Above all, I am most proud of the team, led by Steve Montgomery, and all of our employees at First ScotRail for achieving these goals. I would like to thank them for their commitment and dedication in delivering the highest standards of service for passengers.
“We are working hard with the new franchisees to ensure a smooth transition for everyone as they prepare to take on the responsibility of running Scotland’s railways. We wish employees, partners and passengers of the new franchise every success for the future.”
Meanwhile, it has been reported that in 2014, Edinburgh Trams lost almost £450,000, but this was less than expected due to higher than predicted numbers of passengers. It is estimated that the trams, which started public service at the end of May 2014, will take three years to make a profit.