PASSENGERS on an evening rush-hour train through Glasgow are Scotland’s most regularly delayed rail commuters.
The 4.22pm east-west service from Cumbernauld to Dalmuir, near Clydebank, arrives late on nearly three of every five days.
By contrast, early risers on the 6.37am from Edinburgh to Glenrothes are rarely held up – only once every three months.
The varying fortunes of the country’s burgeoning number of rail travellers is revealed in new figures supplied to Scotland on Sunday from the new ScotRail Alliance – the country’s main train operator and track owner Network Rail.
They come as the network becomes even busier, with the one-third increase in passengers over the past decade to 90 million a year expected to accelerate to 40 per cent and nearly 140 million in ten years’ time.
Alliance managing director Phil Verster has said significantly cutting delays is a priority. He has pledged to target poor-performing lines, such as cross-city routes through Glasgow.
This will involve across-the-board improvements from cutting track and signalling problems to ensuring trains leave stations on time.
These have contributed to the Cumbernauld train’s chronic punctuality problems as it travels through Glasgow Central and over a heavily-congested stretch at Partick in Glasgow’s west end, which handles trains every two minutes.
The 4.22pm reached its destination more than five minutes late 58 per cent of the time in the year to June. The 5.22pm on the same route fared little better, being late on 54 per cent of days.
The third worst performer was the 5.56pm from Airdrie to Balloch, beside Loch Lomond, which also crosses Glasgow city centre, and is only one per cent better.
The 6.20pm from Glasgow Central to Lanark was late 49 per cent of the time. Equalling it was the only morning rush-hour train in the worst five, the 7.56am Airdrie to Balloch.
On the other side of the Central Belt, the extremely punctual Glenrothes train reflects the vast improvements in Edinburgh area time-keeping over the past decade, after it was the worst in Scotland.
The train, handy for those needing to be in Kirkcaldy by 7.30am and the Fife new town ten minutes later, was late on only 1.2 per cent of days.
Commuters on the line between Glasgow Central and Neilston in East Renfrewshire were nearly as well served, with the 8.01am, 5.03pm and 5.17pm trains from Scotland’s busiest station late only 1.4 per cent of the time. Sharing that level of punctuality was the 7am Edinburgh to Dundee train.
Among further improvements, the Alliance has said it will now have a stricter focus on punctuality, with trains arriving more than one minute behind schedule classed as being late.
It has set a target of increasing the number of trains which meet this from 58 to 66 per cent within two years.
Watchdog Transport Focus said much improvement was still needed.
Passenger manager Robert Samson said: “The majority of passengers in Scotland tell us they are satisfied with their overall train service. However, there are still far too many services that passengers can’t rely on.
“Network Rail and ScotRail have to work better together and redouble their efforts to ensure good and consistent performance across Scotland,” he added.
The Alliance said nine in ten ScotRail trains arrived within five minutes of time.
A spokesman said: “However, as a result of carrying more passengers and running more trains than ever, the network is more congested.
“At peak times, even small delays to trains can have significant knock-on effects on later services.
“We constantly review how we can improve services through investment in our infrastructure or by fine-tuning timetables.”
He said the performance of the two Airdrie trains in the worst five had been significantly improved by timetable changes in May, with lateness cut to 25-29 per cent.
Most punctual peak services
06:37 Edinburgh - Glenrothes 98.8%
17:17 Glasgow Central - Neilston 98.6%
17:03 Glasgow Central - Neilston 98.6%
08:01 Glasgow Central - Neilston 98.6%
07:00 Edinburgh - Dundee 98.6%
Least punctual peak services
16:22 Cumbernauld - Dalmuir 42%
17:22 Cumbernauld - Dalmuir 46%
17:56 Airdrie - Balloch 47%
18:20 Glasgow Central – Lanark 51%
07:56 Airdrie – Balloch 51%