Humza Yousaf accused of ‘losing grip’ over ‘substandard’ ScotRail

Humza Yousaf says he is "putting together plans for the coming months to ensure performance improves". Picture: Jane Barlow
Humza Yousaf says he is "putting together plans for the coming months to ensure performance improves". Picture: Jane Barlow
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Transport minister Humza Yousaf signalled today he will order performance improvements from the ScotRail Alliance with Network Rail after declaring it "hasn't been to the standard I'd expect".

Transport minister Humza Yousaf has been accused of “losing his grip” after he signalled more improvements may be ordered because of falling punctuality.

The minister said performance “hasn’t been to the standard I’d expect”.

However, opposition parties said he should have acted sooner because timekeeping has been on the slide for several months.

READ MORE: ScotRail punctuality down for third month in a row
The deteriorating performance has come despite the ScotRail Alliance with Network Rail operating a performance improvement plan since it was ordered by Mr Yousaf when punctuality fell in autumn 2016.

That led to punctuality returning to minimum acceptable levels, but things got worse last autumn and the latest figures are expected to show a further fall.

ScotRail has been subject to a performance improvement plan since autumn 2016. Picture: Getty Images

ScotRail has been subject to a performance improvement plan since autumn 2016. Picture: Getty Images

This is understood to have been caused by a combination of track and train problems, made worse by recent sharp temperature falls.

The latest published figures show the proportion of trains arriving within five minutes of schedule – the official measure – fell from 88.3 per cent in September to 83.3 per cent in November. This is also up to 3 percentage points worse than the previous year.

Figures for December about to be published are understood to reflect a “bad period”.

Sources who monitor disruption said there had been at least two signalling faults every day this month.

These have included in Barrhead, Prestwick, Perth, Dalmuir, Motherwell, Fife, Aberdeen, and on the Borders and Glasgow-Oban/Mallaig lines.

Angry passengers vented their frustration.

Peter Forkes tweeted to The Scotsman: “Can you find out why, after a fares increase to improve the railway, there are more ‘signalling issues’ on @ScotRail now than ever before? Seems like many each day now.”

Commuter Jim McWhinnie, from Kinghorn, said trains had skipped stops – to minimise further delaying following trains – several times on the Fife-Edinburgh line via Kirkcaldy last month.

He said: “Looking at social media, I suspect the practice is rife. There’s tales of people missing interviews, missing picking up their children, being late for new jobs etc.

“ScotRail published an improvement plan but commuters know they are paying lip service to the Scottish Government and the commuters they serve.”

Mr Yousaf tweeted yesterday: “Recent Scotrail performance hasn’t been to standard I’d expect, even during challenging Autumn/Winter conditions.

“This morning peak performance is at 93 per cent – much better – but passengers need & expect consistency.

“Putting together plans for coming months to ensure performance improves.”

He is understood to be working with the alliance to see what can be done to improve performance, before agreeing a plan of action.

But Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Jamie Greene said: “The minister says in his tweet he is ‘putting together plans to deliver a better service in the coming months’.

“It begs the question, what has been doing for the last 18 months since his appointment? He has clearly lost his grip on ScotRail.”

Scottish Labour’s rural economy and connectivity spokesman Colin Smyth said: “The transport minister has been asleep on the job if only now he’s woken up to the need for action.”

BACKGROUND: ScotRail perfomance slumps after major disruptive incidents