Leader: Still room for improvement

Transport Scotland's Service Quality Incentive Regime, known unfortunately as Squire, is said to be one of the toughest regulatory environments in the United Kingdom, and the near-£500,000 fine levied on ScotRail for failing to meet service targets should be seen in that context.

Nonetheless, it is perturbing from a consumer's point of view that our major rail company has been found so badly wanting by a watchdog that such a large fine has been handed out for poor standards in areas that directly affect the public - namely, ticket offices, clocks and toilets in stations, train seats and train lighting. When we travel by train, particularly with a company such as ScotRail that receives significant subsidies from the taxpayer, we have a right to expect high standards.

However, the fine and the need to improve services, which ScotRail accepts, is only part of the story. The firm's fines have come down from nearly 1 million in 2009, a marked improvement, and the regulator's report yesterday praised ScotRail for its efforts in clearing station graffiti, as well as for the quality of station staff, ticket inspections and cleanliness on trains, and public address and customer information.

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From this, we can reasonably conclude ScotRail is improving its services to customers, for which it deserves praise, but that it still has some way to go. Its target must surely be for standards to improve further this year so as to avoid any fine next year. If we can tell the time on station clocks, then all we need is for trains to run on time. Know what we mean, Squire?