ScotRail posts worst year on record after ‘hellish’ run

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More than 27,000 trains were cancelled by ScotRail last year – the equivalent of 74 every day – leaving thousands of passengers stranded at stations.

The Office for Rail and Road figures show the company had the worst year since records began in 1997, with its reliability becoming progressively worse since 2013 and a steeper decline occurring after Abellio took over the company four years ago.

A total of 27,172 trains were cancelled compared to 16,896 the first year Abellio operated the trains. Picture: Neil Hanna

A total of 27,172 trains were cancelled compared to 16,896 the first year Abellio operated the trains. Picture: Neil Hanna

The statistics show that ScotRail ended the 2018/19 year with an annual average for “cancellations and significant lateness” of 3.7 per cent – the worst end of year performance since records began. When Abellio took over the running of the franchise, the level sat at just 2.4 per cent.

A total of 27,172 trains were cancelled compared to 16,896 the first year Abellio operated the trains – and more than double the 12,879 cancelled in 2008.

Past performance issues have already led to ScotRail being issued with two remedial notices since December.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the company is in the “last-chance saloon” over its performance and “unacceptable” level of cancellations and delays.

Commenting on the figures yesterday, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson Colin Smyth said: “It’s been a year from hell for Scotland’s rail passengers.

“More than 27,000 trains have been cancelled amid the worst year on record. To make matters worse, ScotRail were given the green light by the SNP Government to introduce a rip-off rail fare, which means annual season tickets on some routes now cost more than £4,000 whilst children have to pay to travel for the first time. It is time to bring this chaos on our railways to an end, so hard-pressed passengers get the service they need and deserve.”

According to ScotRail, the cancellations are a result of the late delivery of its new Class 385 and upgraded high-speed InterCity trains, as well as industrial action that impacted on the training of drivers and conductors on the new trains. The company has already instigated a new training programme and plans to recruit an extra 55 drivers and 30 conductors this year.

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “This has been a challenging time for Scotland’s railway and we’re sorry to customers who have experienced disruption to their journey.

“Improving the service for our customers is what everyone across the ScotRail Alliance is working flat out to deliver. We are confident that the investment we are making across Scotland’s railway will help us to give our customers the service they expect and deserve.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said the Government had made no secret of its calls for all rail functions to be devolved. The spokesperson added: “As has been stated many times, ministers fully expect performance to improve at the earliest opportunity to meet franchise and regulatory targets, and that can only be achieved by ScotRail delivering strong performance. ScotRail has been made aware of the necessity for them to meet these expectations.

“If ScotRail does not deliver its contractual commitments in the remedial agreement, it runs the risk of the franchise being terminated early.”