Kezia Dugdale: How to stop trains being over-priced and over-crowded

As the skies darken and the temperature drops, rail commuters in Edinburgh have a creeping sense of dread.
Passengers deserve a better service (Picture: Ian Georgeson)Passengers deserve a better service (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
Passengers deserve a better service (Picture: Ian Georgeson)

Every winter, they are forced to endure more cancellations, more delays and more over-crowding on ScotRail services – and that’s a pretty normal occurrence anyway. It looks like the problems for passengers have started even earlier this year.

The new electric trains on the Edinburgh-Glasgow route, finally introduced after months of upheaval due to the electrification process, had to be temporarily taken out of service after a technical fault was discovered.

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The stand-in electric trains also on the route, known as ‘happy trains’ because they appear to be smiling, are nearly a quarter-of-a-century old and not fit for purpose. Nothing to smile about there. Then there’s the ‘new’ high-speed trains to and from Aberdeen. The inaugural service to Edinburgh broke down at Ladybank.

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And what about journey times? Well the most recent data for the percentage of ScotRail services that arrive at Waverley on time is just 46.3 per cent. That’s woeful. You would think, given the long-standing problems facing passengers, the Scottish Government would be taking a tougher stance on this.

Instead, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson will allow ScotRail to breach the franchise performance levels with a ‘temporary waive’ until June 2019. He reached this deal with the firm after they had already hit breach level, without informing the Scottish Parliament.

It’s an insult to passengers who have to put up with late, overcrowded, overpriced trains and completely undermines the aim of the franchise agreement. It’s time to take these services back into public ownership so we can have a rail service that puts passengers first.