Scottish shop owner ‘won’t hire staff who rely on ScotRail’

0
Have your say

A shop owner has vowed to never employ another rail commuter because a key member of his staff has been repeatedly delayed by ScotRail disruption.

It comes as passengers today waited to see whether the train operator’s biggest timetable shake-up for 20 years would bring any improvement.

John McKee, director of Hanover Healthfoods, relies on senior employee Rachel Bell to open the shop at 9:30am every day, which also acts as a parcel drop-off point.

John McKee, director of Hanover Healthfoods, relies on senior employee Rachel Bell to open the shop at 9:30am every day, which also acts as a parcel drop-off point.

There have been widespread cancellations for weeks as staff were trained to operate new services.

Industry sources fear a repeat of the chaos in England when two train firms attempted to introduce new timetables in May.

The Scottish Government warned that “initial teething difficulties may arise” and said it was “imperative that any issues are addressed swiftly and effectively”.

The timetable, launched yesterday, has 100 extra daily services including a new half-hourly link between Edinburgh and Glasgow via ­Cumbernauld, and near-hourly services between Dundee-Arbroath, Aberdeen-Montrose and Inverness-Elgin.

John McKee, director of Hanover Healthfoods, relies on senior employee Rachel Bell to open the shop at 9:30am every day, which also acts as a parcel drop-off point.

However, she said her train service from Aberdour in Fife had been so unreliable that he regularly had to draft in colleagues at short notice or come in himself when she was late.

Mrs Bell, 40, a former sales representative, was equally upset at the delays and cancellations, which she said had become an almost daily occurrence since she started the job in May.

She said: “I have gone from driving 40,000 miles a year to commuting by train and have been quite shocked with what people have to put up with.

“My boss hired me so he could depend on me but I’m having to let him down on a weekly basis.

“One train was so tightly crammed that a woman could not get her phone out of her pocket to tell her employer she would be late. I even heard a conductor announce, ‘Step out of your comfort zone and move up’.”

The disruption has also made her late collecting her six-year-old daughter from school on her way home.

Mrs Bell said taking the train was “brilliant” when it was on time as it was quicker and easier than driving into Edinburgh. However, she is now considering taking the bus instead, even though it would take longer and involve a change.

In a statement to The Scotsman, Mr McKee said he had had to “think long and hard” about taking the risk of employing Mrs Bell because she commuted from Fife.

He said: “We are a customer-facing business with fixed opening hours … Several times a week she is delayed with the train and this compromises our ability to trade.

“I would definitely not employ another person reliant on the trains again.”

Mr McKee said later: “Hanover Healthfoods supports sustainable and reliable public transport which is crucial to the people and the environment of Edinburgh and Fife.”

Mrs Bell’s husband James has launched a petition over the poor service on the Fife Circle line, which has attracted 800 signatures.

He said: “Between April and September, 110 peak-time trains were cancelled on the line.

“Before April, the situation was pretty dire too, and after September.

“Luckily, my wife has a great employer and they agreed to speak about the problem together, knowing others are probably in a similar situation.

“The common problem is ScotRail and they were both keen to highlight this as employer and employee.

“Many of us feel let down.”

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “We know performance hasn’t been good enough recently and we are doing everything we can to deliver the more punctual service that our customers deserve.”

However, ScotRail said Fife would not get longer trains until next year.