ScotRail pledges to stop missing rush-hour station stops

ScotRail said stations were only missed to avoid delaying other trains. Picture Michael Gillen
ScotRail said stations were only missed to avoid delaying other trains. Picture Michael Gillen
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ScotRail’s busiest rush-hour trains will no longer miss stops to make up time, following passenger pressure, The Scotsman has learned.

Some late-running trains previously missed stations to reduce knock-on delays to other services.

The train operator has now pledged to end the practice for around one-and-a-half hours during the morning and evening peaks.

However, it admitted the move could hit punctuality, and some off-peak trains might have to miss stops instead, or be cancelled.

The change, introduced yesterday, came as ScotRail said its punctuality had improved marginally.

A total of 89.8 per cent of trains arrived within five minutes of schedule in the year to last Saturday, compared to 89.5 per cent a month ago.

Some of the hundreds of passengers affected by missed stops have vented their anger on social media.

Former Scottish Environment Protection Agency chef executive James Curran tweeted: “Now you’ve decided to skip my stop - yet again. Disgraceful service.”

Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, which includes track owner Network Rail, insisted stations stops were not missed to improve performance figures.

He said: “I do not think the message is understood. People call it ‘stop skipping’ and think it is to get to the end destination on time, but that’s not it at all.”

Mr Verster, who preferred to call such trains “failed to stops”, said there was a “very difficult trade-off” between the interests of passengers on such trains and those on others who were being delayed.

He said it was “a response to what I hear on the network from our customers”.

ScotRail was unable to provide figures for the number of peak-hour trains which had missed stops.

However, a total of 222 trains missed stops in the four weeks to last Saturday, among the 59,000 which operated.

Mr Verster said: “While the scale of it is not very big, I appreciate the impact it has had on customers.”

Robert Samson, passenger manager at the Transport Focus watchdog, said: “Passengers will be pleased the skip stopping of stations will not now happen. They want a reliable railway where the published timetable is delivered on a consistent basis.”

Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: “There is nothing more frustrating for passengers than paying over the odds for tickets on overcrowded trains that are often late running, only for the train to fly by their stop.

“Hundreds of trains have been missing stops and thousands of passengers have been affected.

“Passengers want to see improvements across the board and this pledge cannot be an excuse for failure if ScotRail does not hit its key performance targets again.

“The SNP transport minister Humza Yousaf has said he has confidence in ScotRail’s improvement plan and he expects targets to be met by March – the clock is ticking.

“There is a better way to run our railways, with a People’s ScotRail, where profits are reinvested in Scotland.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: “We have asked ScotRail to implement an improvement plan which looks at addressing service quality issues we know are important to passengers, which includes skip stopping.

“We fully expect ScotRail to hit their anticipated targets to lift performance, which remains 2.5 per cent ahead of the GB average.

“We welcome the decision by ScotRail to reduce skip-stopping, which protects the overall customer experience, and helps to maximise capacity available for passengers during peak times.

“Capacity and performance will be improved still further as the committed expansion of the ScotRail fleet of trains is delivered.”

The SNP wants the public sector to be allowed to bid for the next ScotRail franchise, but this would require Westminster approval.