Leader comment: ScotRail must prove its trains are on a roll

Passengers have given ScotRail a record-equalling 90 per cent satisfaction rating.
Passengers have given ScotRail a record-equalling 90 per cent satisfaction rating.
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Alex Hynes, the new managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, will have breathed a huge sigh of relief at seeing the latest passenger satisfaction figures.

The train operator has been through the mill over the last year, taking the political heat for poor punctuality and widespread disruption from major engineering work.

Passenger upset was translated into ScotRail’s worst score for 14 years in official watchdog Transport Focus’ twice-yearly poll, which the rail industry takes very seriously.

But six months on, the company has made a remarkable return to form, notching up a 90 per cent satisfaction rating that is as good as it has achieved since the survey was launched in 1999.

That follows punctuality returning to above minimum acceptable standards after ministers ordered an improvement plan, which now appears to have also borne this additional and welcome fruit.

Praise has rightly been accorded to the firm and its workforce by the main opposition parties for turning round performance.

However, the Greens sounded a wrong note by suggesting the survey result could have been a “fluke”.

That is to fail to understand the efforts made by the workforce and the real achievement the figures represent.

The way that ScotRail deals with delays has been repeatedly rated poorly by passengers, no doubt exasperated at its inability simply to communicate with them when things go wrong.

However, the Greens sounded a warning by suggesting the survey result could have been a “fluke”. Time will tell, but for the moment, the figures suggest that significant efforts have been made by the workforce, and credit should be given for that.

But ScotRail must not be complacent now they appear to be getting back on track.

Mr Hynes has already set the bar very high, telling MSPs last month he wants Scotland to not only have the best railway it’s ever had, but one of the best in the world.

To get anywhere near that lofty ambition, what we need now is further and sustained improvement.

With two fleets of new trains on their way, the longed-for extra seats commuters are desperate for should be with us soon.

But there is much upgrading work still to be done across the country, and ScotRail may have to work even harder to keep passengers content until it’s done.

ScotRail was once the most punctual operator in mainland Britain. One day, perhaps it will be again.