The Scottish Government is now facing criticism over its treatment of travellers who face journeys up to 40 minutes longer when upgrading work, due to last five months, gets underway on Glasgow Queen Street station. It will affect services in and out of the station across Scotland, including the main link with the capital.
Last night former transport minister Tavish Scott called for affected passengers to get a discount for the inconvenience caused – which they can normally apply for when trains are delayed.
Ministers have ruled this out ,claiming “reasonable services will continue”. But ScotRail, which operates the routes affected, is in line for a multi-million pound payout.
The main tunnel serving Scotland’s third-busiest rail station is to close for 20 weeks from 20 March as part of a £60 million upgrade which will allow faster and longer trains to use the station.
Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats at Holyrood through Parliamentary Questions have revealed that part of these total costs include an estimated £16m in “lost revenue compensation” for the train firms.
Mr Scott, Lib Dem transport spokesman at Holyrood, said yesterday: “Commuters are having the wool pulled over their eyes on the upcoming closure. It’s all fine and well recompensing operators for loss of revenue. But what about the people who use those trains to get to and from work? Or the people who use them to visit their families and friends? They will have to carry on regardless despite journey lengths on some routes increasing by 40 minutes.”
Mr Scott added: “The SNP Government is spinning this as an upgrade for the electrification of the line. But the closure would have gone ahead regardless. We already know rail season ticket holders will not be offered a discount – what about everyone else?
“People deserve transparency from ministers and a guarantee from operators they will receive compensation for the inconvenience this closure will cause.”
The closure will hit services to Aberdeen and Inverness, which face up to 40 minutes or more of additional journey times. The Glasgow-Edinburgh service, which carries thousands of commuters between Scotland’s two biggest cities every day, will be reduced from four services every hour at the moment, to two an hour. The current journey time of around 50 minutes will be extended by about 25 minutes or more. Other services to Dunblane and Alloa, as well as the West Highlands will also be extended by 25 minutes or more.
ScotRail and Virgin East Coast offer compensation for delays over 30-minutes.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The work to upgrade Queen Street station is a significant milestone in our £5 billion programme of investment in Scotland’s railway. Despite the major work being undertaken, the Network Rail-ScotRail Alliance is working hard to ensure reasonable services will continue throughout the tunnel closure period and are therefore not be able to offer passenger discounts or compensation during the works period.”
The forthcoming upgrades are to replace worn-out tracks in the main access tunnel – not the re-development of the station, which will follow next year. Network Rail is taking advantage of the tunnel closure to do some of the lengthening work at the same time.
The work this year will also mean major disruption for passengers using Queen Street who will have to catch trains from the low level platforms.