Rail chief told: Keep ‘no skipping’ vow
PASSENGER groups have urged Scotrail to keep its latest promise to stop skipping stations.
The train giant’s managing director has said his drivers will miss stops only “as a last resort” as they try to boost punctuality.
This latest pledge comes 18 months after his predecessor also said the practice, designed to keep trains on schedule, would be phased out, at least during peak hours.
Mr Hynes, managing director of Scotrail Alliance, which represents both privately-owned train operator Scotrail and state track firm Network Rail, admitted the practice known as stop-skipping had been “overused”.
Bodies representing passengers have been complaining for years about trains passing through scheduled stops, which affects those who use smaller stations most.
David Sidebottom, passenger director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers have the absolute right to get on the train they have turned up to get as well as arriving at the destination that appears on their ticket.
“The Scotrail Alliance must now deliver on its promises and focus on running trains on time, with few cancellations, fewer skip stops, and with carriages of the right length.”
Passengers say they have seen more stop-skipping since Abellio, the commercial UK arm Dutch national railway company, took over the Scotrail franchise.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said earlier this year that unscheduled fly-bys had been reduced in 2017, until poor weather hit, and described the operator’s performance as “simply not good enough”. Mr Yousaf said 0.78 per cent of Scotrail services in 2017 had skipped stations – equating to 20 of its 2,500 trains a day. That represented an increase from 0.6% in 2016-17 and 0.4% in 2011-12.
Mr Hynes, speaking to The Scotsman, said he hoped a new 20-point plan drawn up by a former executive called Nick Donovan would make things better. He said: “I can’t be sure but I can be confident.”
He added: Mr Hynes said: “We were using skip stopping to fix a symptom of laterunning trains, but we should focus on the root cause of the problem. His [Mr Donovan’s] view, and I agree, is it’s been overused. If we do not improve performance at a few critical locations, the network frankly does not work.”
Passenger groups said they felt consumers would be less unhappy being a few minutes late than if their stop was skipped entirely. Rail experts stress skipping is designed to minimise disruption on the network.
Fife and Dunbartonshire are among the areas most affected. One villager in Cardross wrote to The Herald to say residents were trying to catch earlier trains in case their service was skipped and they missed an appointment or were late for work.
MSP Jackie Baillie, who represents the village, said: “The Helensburgh and Balloch train lines have been plagued by skip stopping for a prolonged period. At one stage it seemed more trains skipped Cardross station than actually stopped, it had got so bad.
“During a recent visit to Cardross, Mr Hynes conceded Scotrail/abellio’s performance had been poor and he committed to making improvements.
“Promises have been made before and, while I look forward to an improved service, I think Mr Yousaf needs to ban skip stopping as part of the contract.”
The Scotrail Alliance must now deliver on its promises and focus on running trains on time