Rail disgrace

Have your say

Well, well, well, so the latest survey tells us that train operator First ScotRail adds a whacking great amount to Scottish tourism every year (“Tourism industry boosted by £1.22 billion from ScotRail”, 4 July).

What a convenient time for such a “fact” to emerge, just when the various competing transport companies line up on the starting blocks for the refranchising of Scotland’s rail system.

In claiming that Scotland’s railways are “enjoying a massive resurgence in popularity”, Scottish transport minister Keith Brown makes a fascinating statement of the obvious.

These days, people everywhere travel more – by air, by car, by bus, on foot (just look at the West Highland Way) and bike. This “rail resurgence” has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with First ScotRail as such – and Mr Brown should know this.

His purple prose about “making our rail journeys as good as our marvellous destinations” flies in the face of the operation through Scotland of Europe’s poorest quality long-distance rolling – and not just on tourist routes.

In the decade that it has held the franchise, First ScotRail consistently refuses to raise the issue of the quality of our trains with Transport Scotland. Neither does Transport Scotland appear to be interested. We passengers are denied any aspiration, and travel instead on the lowest common denominator.

The biter bit is that in this same decade, First ScotRail inflicts a fares system on us travellers not only eye-wateringly high in price, but baffling in its complexity.

What rationalisation of the fares system has First ScotRail undertaken in this time? I haven’t yet managed to squeeze out of First ScotRail managing director Steve Montgomery any information beyond waffle.

A decade ago, noises were emanating from Holyrood about Scotland being provided with a “world class” railway. Surveys like this latest one – and so lauded by our Transport Minister and First ScotRail – only serve to show how far Scotland still has to travel before any New Jerusalem is within reach.

Gordon Casely