ScotRail Hits the Buffers
(or "How the Mighty are Fallen")
With the introduction of the cascaded 158 units to operate the improved summer timetable expectations ran high for the continuation of ScotRail's reputation for high service. But, at a stroke, it all went wrong.
We deliberately refrained from voicing our dismay, confident that railway managers and staff would be so embarrassed at facing hostile customers that they would be labouring long and hard to restore normal running. To convince ourselves that our observations were not misplaced we organised a survey amongst a group of 32 passengers travelling on the Dingwall-Inverness commuter train on 26th July.
What, you might ask, had these passengers to offer, when each morning they have a train to themselves that is punctual. Well, these were the hard won passengers who during the height of the summer had to suffer the problems of getting home on a train that was grossly over-crowded, and often late leaving Inverness. The last train north always had standing passengers, often beyond Dingwall, frequently arrived late from Edinburgh, was delayed whilst it shunted its way around the station, but why was it different this year? The simple answer is that some 'bean counter' decided that 2 coaches for Summer 2000 was sufficient, whereas in previous years ScotRail had provided 4 coaches.
The results showed that the most popular return train used was the 1730 with 30 of the 32 passengers surveyed, probably because having had to get into Inverness at 0816 for a likely 0900 start there was no point in extending the day any further. Eighty five percent of those passengers confirmed that the train was late leaving Inverness. The perceived reasons for this lateness confirmed our thoughts; late arrival from Edinburgh and slow loading due to high number of passengers. They also criticised the reversal out of the station with the subsequent difficulty of the driver making his way through the congested train.
In response to the question "Do you always get a seat on your return journey?" 81% replied "No" - with 64% of those passengers claiming that they stood twice or more often a week.
Additional comments confirmed a criticism that we often levelled at the new trains i.e. the lack of cycle space, one passenger claiming that he now left his bike at home and walked the two miles to his office.
The solutions are simple to suggest and not impossible to implement
- more coaches
- use platform 6 for the departure of this train
- less shuffling around Inverness station
- better timekeeping from Edinburgh
Come on ScotRail, get it right for next year, because you'll have all the Tain commuters to cater for.