ScotRail passengers down by 91 per cent as service cuts start

The number of people travelling with Scotland’s main train operator has dipped to a near-record low of just 9 per cent of normal on some days, The Scotsman has learned.

ScotRail will cut services from today following a further drop in passenger numbers. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
ScotRail will cut services from today following a further drop in passenger numbers. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The revelation came as ScotRail today halved the frequency of its flagship Edinburgh-Glasgow main line service to half hourly as thes first stage of a 10 per cent reduction in trains across the country.

The operator said the introduction of level four Covid restrictions, limiting travel, had had a “considerable impact” on its already very low passenger figures.

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Most of the level four council areas are in the west of Scotland which have the greatest concentration of ScotRail services, and where only essential travel is permitted across local authority boundaries.

Extra cleaning of trains has been introduced and passengers required to wear masks. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Since the start of the latest restrictions on November 20, the fall in numbers travelling has increased from 80 to 85 per cent overall compared to a year ago.

However, ScotRail said the figure reached 91 per cent on Saturday November 21 and 87 per cent on Sunday November 22.

It had fallen to a low of 93 per cent down over several weeks after lockdown in March before recovering to 75 per cent by early autumn.

The Edinburgh-Glasgow main line was previously reduced to half-hourly trains for part of the day.

The other reductions will be introduced from Sunday December 13, as The Scotsman revealed three weeks ago.

Some 250 trains a day will be suspended, reducing the total from more than 90 per cent to 81 per cent of normal.

ScotRail said it would achieve a “significant cost reduction” in fuel, train maintenance and track use charges paid to Network Rail.

That is expected to cut the emergency funding for ScotRail required from the Scottish Government, which has effectively doubled annual state support to nearly £1 billion.

The operator said it would also free up staff for driver and conductor training, and increase contingency in case absence rates due to Covid increased.

It said there had been a “significant reduction” in passenger demand and the remaining services would more than meet demand.

Operations director David Simpson said: “This revised timetable allows us to continue delivering a reliable and vital rail service, but better reflects the reduced demand and changing nature of travel in Scotland and the need to ensure value for taxpayer money.”

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