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ScotRail gets second performance warning

11 Feb 2019

UK: Citing poor customer satisfaction figures, Transport Scotland issued a Remedial Plan notice to ScotRail on February 8. This is the operator’s second warning in quick succession, following a Remedial Notice issued on December 24 because of poor operational performance, during November and December.

According to Transport Scotland, ScotRail had failed to meet ‘contractual targets in the National Rail Passenger Survey results’. It would be ‘extremely difficult for ScotRail to reach its overall 88·5% average target this franchise year’, having scored just 79% in the most recent survey.

Whilst satisfaction amongst leisure travellers was the highest recorded since Spring 2016, this was outweighed by feedback from regular passengers who had experienced significant disruption. Services had been affected severe weather in September, an RMT overtime ban and rolling stock problems including the delayed introduction of the Hitachi Class 385 EMUs.

Describing the need to issue a second notice as ‘frustrating’, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure & Connectivity Michael Matheson said that customer satisfaction was ‘clearly linked to the recent poor performance’, and called for this to ‘change swiftly’. He wants to see ‘quick action to ensure the ongoing record investment in infrastructure, fleets and staff quite rightly translates to better satisfaction levels and a more attractive service’.

ScotRail told Railway Gazette that the NRPS results had not been a complete surprise, given the performance problems. It also confirmed that it is unlikely to return to the target level set by Transport Scotland in the next survey, as this would require average performance ‘in the region of 96% or 97%’. Although the operator ‘would certainly look to make improvements, and we are sure that we will, it certainly won’t be in the high 90s’. The company said Transport Scotland ‘has recognised that there are challenges outwith our control, but there are obviously things that we need to improve. We’re all working together and are hopeful that we’ll start to see improvements’.

ScotRail has been given 12 weeks to submit its two remedial plans. It is aiming to build on the slight improvement in overall performance over the past three four-week periods to return performance and passenger satisfaction to more acceptable levels. Noting that the operator runs ‘more than 2 400 services every single weekday’, Head of Customer Operations Phil Campbell said ‘everyone at Scotland’s Railway is working flat out to deliver the service our customers expect and deserve’.

Although all 26 refurbished HST sets were due to have been delivered by December 2018, the project is seriously behind schedule. So far only two sets have been released after being fitted with power-operated doors and other improvements, with a third close to completion and three more in progress at Doncaster. Wabtec Rail announced on February 1 that it is to set up a second production line at its Kilmarnock facility.

The expectation is that up to 26 trailer cars will be refurbished at Kilmarnock, with the remaining 95 to be dealt with at Doncaster. The first vehicle is expected to enter the works in the second quarter of this year. Noting that the work will create approximately 100 jobs, Wabtec Rail said it was ‘fully committed to the long-term success of its Kilmarnock facility and plans to invest accordingly’.