ScotRail performance officially improves despite hundreds of cancelled trains

The late arrival of new trains has caused cancellations while staff are trained to use them. Picture: John Devlin
The late arrival of new trains has caused cancellations while staff are trained to use them. Picture: John Devlin
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ScotRail's punctuality improved over the last month despite hundreds of cancellations, according to official figures published today.

A total of 84.2 per cent of its trains arrived at their destination within five minutes of schedule in the four weeks to 5 January compared to 83.4 per cent over the previous four weeks.

The result was also an improvement on the same period last year, also of 83.4 per cent.

BACKGROUND: ScotRail vows to hit performance targets in two years’ time

The scale of the cancellations - running to 60 a day - has triggered a remedial plan being ordered by ministers.

Most have been on lines into Edinburgh, caused by staff being trained on new trains and routes as part of a major timetable change on 9 December.

That is because the trains were delivered late because of manufacturing and refitting delays.

READ MORE: ScotRail fines for failing service standards fall by 25 per cent

The figures also show ScotRail's share of the delays has eclipsed that of its alliance partner Network Rail, such as from track and signal faults.

In all, 46 per cent of delays were attributed to the train operator compared to 34.9 per cent to Network Rail.

The alliance has told The Scotsman that delays caused by Network Rail have significantly reduced.

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Jamie Greene said: “Crucially, the fact that 46 per cent of failures was attributed to ScotRail has completely torn apart the SNP’s argument that Scotland’s rail woes are because of the UK Government.

"They’ll blame everybody else for their failings, including the weather."

ScotRail's annual measure of punctuality - the average over the last 12 months - remains unchanged at 87.3 per cent.

It has not improved since August 2017.

The ScotRail Alliance has forecast it will not hit 92.5 per cent - required by ministers and rail regulators - until March 2021.

It said the biggest incidents causing delays had been shortages of Edinburgh-based drivers and conductors, and an overhead wire fault at Hyndland in Glasgow on one of the busiest sections of track on the network.

However, it said there had been "significant improvements in a number of areas".

They included the full re-opening of Ayr station after fears about the state of the derelict station hotel.

ScotRail said punctuality had also improved on the Milngavie line north of Glasgow, one of its worst performers and identified as crucial to prevent knock-on delays across the network.

It said the main Edinburgh to Glasgow route had seen its best performance since August.

Managing director Alex Hynes said: “This has been a challenging time for Scotland’s railway.

"While we know our performance has not been good enough, it is encouraging to see our punctuality continuing to improve across the country.

“Everyone at the ScotRail Alliance is working flat out to provide customers with the service they deserve.

"We are training more than 20 drivers and conductors every day, and this will deliver continual improvements in the coming weeks and months.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency, which oversees the ScotRail franchise, said: “This second consecutive month of improved performance should be welcomed and is a sign it is moving in the right direction.

"This is despite the unacceptable levels of cancellations affecting passengers caused by a shortage of trained drivers and conductors during the last reporting period.

“Performance has been consistently better than the GB average, despite late delivery of new trains and the now-resolved industrial action impacting staff training.

"Nonetheless, ministers require ScotRail to submit a robust remedial plan setting out the actions they will implement to get performance back on track to deliver the full benefits of our significant investment in more seats and more services."

Scottish Labour transpotrt spokesman Colin Smyth said: “This is another set of appalling performance figures from ScotRail and Abellio are yet again well below the targets they are paid to meet as part of the franchise.

"Passengers facing delayed, cancelled and overcrowded trains every day are sick and tired of this failing franchise and angry that for months the SNP Government have turned a blind eye to this poor performance."