Leader comment: Time for promises to be kept on trains

Anyone who has endured a rush-hour journey on a Scottish train will, we suspect, be completely unsurprised by confirmation that a number of services are overcrowded as a matter of course.

Statistics from Transport Scotland reveal that anyone planning to take the 16.34 from Edinburgh to Perth can expect carriages to be overfilled by a third. The battle to secure a seat is real. Though that particular service is the worst when it comes to overcrowding, a number of others - across the country - are similarly packed.

Rail commuters in Scotland have long complained about the number of cancelled services. Perhaps those whose trains do turn up are expected to be so pathetically grateful that they ignore the fact there’s nowhere for them to sit. Scotrail promises that investment in new and upgraded trains will tackle this problem. We’re sure the company will forgive us if we reserve judgement.

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Scotrail knows how many tickets it sells for each service. Every day, it has this information at its fingertips, and yet the overcrowding problem on a number of key routes has been ignored. Transport Scotland may only now have released these figures but they will not be news to the train operator.

Throughout years of substandard service, rail fares have continued to rise in price. Shareholders have been looked after when customers have not.

Enough is enough. If we are serious, as a nation, about tempting people out of their cars and onto more environmentally-friendly public transport then the service on offer must hold some appeal. Who can blame those commuters who prefer the reliability and comfort of the car to the lottery of the rail system where first prize is being packed like a sardine into an overcrowded carriage with broken air conditioning?

Transport Scotland promises £475 million investment in new Hitachi trains and £54 million on high speed trains will “transform” travel on key routes and between Scottish cities but, as the Liberal Democrats point out, delivery of those trains is behind schedule.

Scotrail, of course, must be given the opportunity to deliver on the commitments in has made in terms of new fleet and faster travel times. But Ministers must keep a close eye on developments. Passengers on Scotland’s trains have heard promises about improvements often enough. It’s time for those promises to be kept.