Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls to sack transport minister Humza Yousaf after a train breakdown in the “worst place” in the country led to travel mayhem yesterday with thousands of commuters left stranded.
The First Minister apologised after the breakdown of an Edinburgh-Glasgow service between Waverley and Haymarket stations in the capital which brought large swathes of the rail network to a standstill during the morning rush hour and afterwards.
One rail union said Ms Sturgeon must sack Mr Yousaf, who has been under pressure over the performance of Dutch firm Abellio over the running of the ScotRail franchise.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “Transport minister Humza Yousaf has stood by while Abellio Scotrail takes Scotland’s passengers and taxpayers for a ride.
“Nicola Sturgeon must take personal responsibility for this situation as her government awarded this contract. She should sack her incompetent transport minister.”
I’m committed to doing (my) job..I’ll be monitoring things absolutely closely.Transport Minister Humza Yousaf
Asked yesterday whether the First Minister still has confidence in the transport minister, a spokeswoman for Ms Sturgeon said: “Absolutely.”
But she did apologise over the fiasco after coming under pressure during First Minister’s Questions.
“The government accepts responsibility in this matter,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“I am sorry for the disruption that was caused this morning and also sorry for this disruption that any passenger faces on any day of the week.”
The SNP leader repeated her threat to strip Abellio of the ScotRail contract if the service continues to deteriorate.
She said: “In terms of the wider issues, I absolutely accept that things are not good enough and that is why the improvement plan is in place and that is why we will stick with that until things are running to a standard that the public have a right to expect.”
The 6:55am Edinburgh to Glasgow Central service came to a standstill at Haymarket following a brake fault. This meant trains travelling into Edinburgh from across the country were hit by delays of up to an hour, with services from Glasgow on the High Level and Low Level lines, the Borders, Fife, Dunblane, Perth and Dundee being affected.
Mr Yousaf was at the ScotRail control room in Glasgow last night for the peak time rush and is due to visit some of the country’s busiest stations today to see how the morning rush hour peak is handled.
The Transport Minister said today that he is “certainly not” stepping down, and is monitoring daily a performance plan set up for the train operator.
Speaking as he monitored the morning commute, Mr Yousaf told BBC Radio Scotland: “My job is to make sure that the railways are running, to make sure that buses are as efficient as possible, to make sure our trunk road network is moving.
“I’m committed to doing that job, as you’d imagine I am. I’ll be monitoring things absolutely closely.
“Yes of course there’s an apology there for commuters that were disrupted yesterday but an assurance from ScotRail, from me, that we’re monitoring things closely and I expect improvements to happen and happen immediately.”
The disruption was branded “another shambolic day” on Scotland’s rail network by Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who said it had been “misery” for passengers.
She said: “Overcrowded trains, delayed trains, cancelled trains – that’s the SNP’s idea of a world-leading deal for passengers.
“Isn’t it clear more than ever that Labour’s policy for a ‘People’s ScotRail’, run for passengers, not for profit, is the best solution for Scotland?”
ScotRail Alliance chief Phil Verster also apologised for the disruption faced by travellers.
“The breakdown this morning was the worst type of train failure, in the worst part of our network at the worst possible time,” he said. “I know that what people want when disruption happens is to have access to good quality information. That is why we will be having a thorough review of this incident to see what worked and what didn’t.”