Published: 24th October 2016
The ScotRail Alliance has published a plan to improve its performance in response to a call from the Scottish Government’s agency Transport Scotland.
The proposal to provide better punctuality and reliability of train services in Scotland follows concern about failure to meet targets previously set.
It also follows calls in some quarters for Scotland’s railways to be nationalised. Those who want to see the railways nationalised, argue that this would help the trains to run on time more often. However, the infrastructure is already nationalised in the shape of public ownership of Network Rail, which is in a “deep alliance” with the Dutch company Abellio, which was awarded the franchise to operate ScotRail by Transport Scotland, itself a public body. The current franchise started on 1 April 2015.
Under the new Performance Improvement Plan, the ScotRail Alliance forecasts that things will get better for passengers. The Alliance states that in recent months, performance has fallen 0.7 per cent below expected levels.
Key pieces of railway infrastructure, including points, tracks and signals, are to be tackled. And trains will also feature in the improvement plan to eliminate faults. Trains will be upgraded to make them more reliable.
The ScotRail Alliance will identify “golden trains” that would spoil overall performance if anything went wrong with the specific services that they operate. In Railtrack days, some parts of the infrastructure was maintained to gold standard for the same reason, any failure would have a major impact on other services.
There will be a programme to upgrade key parts of the network, such as Edinburgh and the Borders, Lanarkshire and Tayside.
Identifying aspects of how the timetable is operated should help. The ScotRail Alliance says it also plans to improve the way that staff are rostered and trains are diagrammed.
The infrastructure director David Dickson said:
“We are not a just a company made up of metal boxes, wooden sleepers or concrete buildings. We have 7,500 people working for us – and every single one of them is dedicated to doing the very best for our customers.”
He said that a considerable amount of work is going on to improve the rail network in Scotland to provide services that are more effective. He claimed that the high level of work meant that performance had “dipped slightly”.
Transport Scotland has asked the ScotRail Alliance to produce the new performance improvement plan following a decline in train service performance to 89.6 per cent from an expected 90.3 per cent.
ScotRail describes its performance in the four weeks to 15 October as 90.2 per cent, suggesting some improvement even before implementation of the plan.
A plaque in memory of a First World War veteran has been installed at a Scottish railway station.
Sergeant John Meikle VC, who is commemorated by the plaque, worked at the booking office at Nitshill before he went off to war. He was killed in 1918 while trying to protect his comrades.
His nephews John and Alan Meikle were present for a special ceremony at Nitshill on 18 October at the location where the ticket office used to be. A previous memorial was removed in 1971 following vandalism and was relocated to Dingwall, where Sergeant Meikle’s regiment, the Seaforth Highlanders, was based.
Sergeant Meikle was the only Scot among seven British railway men awarded the Victoria Cross for service in the Great War.
The Railway Heritage Trust provided the new stone memorial at Nitshill, with support from ScotRail and The Railway Mission.