Transport minister Humza Yousaf has been attacked by opposition MSPs for claiming Scotland’s rail network “isn’t a poor service”.
Anger at the state of Scotland’s railways came to a head last week when a broken down train in Edinburgh left thousands stranded and caused chaos across the network.
Mr Yousaf has come under pressure over ScotRail’s £7 billion contract, held by the Dutch franchisee Abellio. At the weekend the transport minister said he would make a statement to Holyrood today about plans to look at a public sector bid for the rail contract.
In September, ScotRail was asked to produce an improvement plan at the request of Transport Scotland after punctuality and reliability fell below expected standards.
Questioned on the improvement plan on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, it was put to Mr Yousaf that passengers would have to endure a poor service for some time.
Mr Yousaf replied: “It’s not a poor service. Let’s just put this into perspective; 89.8 – that’s almost 90 trains out of 100 – are running to their contractually obligated time. That’s not to say there aren’t problems and there aren’t issues, there are.”
Labour pointed out that official figures from that morning’s rush hour showed more than one-fifth of trains on express routes were delayed.
Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: “Humza Yousaf is a transport minister out of touch with the reality of what is happening on our railways. Weary passengers who are fed up of delayed, over-crowded and cancelled trains will be astounded by his incredible claim they are not experiencing a ‘poor service’.”
She added: “Everyone remembers when one of his predecessors Stewart Stevenson boasted of a ‘first-class response’ to the worst gridlock on our roads in living memory. It would seem that Mr Yousaf is just as indifferent to the experience of rail passengers.”
Scottish Conservative shadow finance minister Murdo Fraser also compared Mr Yousaf to Mr Stevenson, who was forced to resign over his handling of transport chaos which ensued during extreme winter weather in 2010.
Meanwhile, the Green transport spokesman John Finnie will today press Mr Yousaf to improve compensation for passengers who experience a poor service.