IMPROVEMENTS in the state of ScotRail’s trains and stations has led to a dramatic cut in annual fines levied by Transport Scotland to their lowest level.
The Scottish Government agency said today that the penalties had fallen for a fourth year in a row, by nearly two thirds from £372,849 to £133,126 in the year to June following a “marked improvement across key areas”.
ScotRail did better than last year on help points, ticket machines and the removal of litter at stations, along with toilets, announcements, information screens and seat reservations on trains.
However, toilets, litter and timetables in stations remained below standard, as did train toilets, seats, information displays and announcements.
ScotRail is fined where these are below set benchmarks and receives bonus payments for those above the benchmarks.
The regime was introduced in 2004 at the start of the current ten-year franchise, run by Aberdeen-based FirstGroup.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “The Scottish Government wants to drive up standards further in the overall Scottish rail passenger experience.
“Evidence from SQUIRE for the last 12 months shows standards of service and facilities are rising. Penalties are now at their lowest ever level.
“ScotRail has delivered significant improvements across the board with penalties down 85 per cent over the four years.
But Mr Brown also pointed out that recent rail disruption caused by high temperatures and signalling cable thefts were largely the responsibility of track owner Network Rail.
He said he had asked the firm last week to draw up a recovery plan “to deal quickly and effectively with events which hit hard on passenger services”.
Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail said: “Our strategy is to invest in Scotland’s railway every year, delivering record punctuality and transforming the whole experience of rail travel. This is striking a chord with people turning to trains in record numbers.
The results were published hours after passengers on both of last night’s ScotRail sleeper trains from London were severely disrupted by faults with their locomotives.
The Euston to Edinburgh and Glasgow overnight train only ran as far as Preston, with passengers forced to switch to other cross-Border trains which left around 8am. The train had previously also been delayed by signalling problems.
ScotRail’s other sleeper, which serves Inverness, Fort William and Aberdeen, left London three hours late.
Jacqueline Taggart, ScotRail’s director of customer service, said: “We apologise to customers for any inconvenience caused - and have arranged full refunds for all those who affected.” They were also given complimentary sleeper tickets.