scotland (4K)
The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

SQUIRE - Service Quality Incentive Regime

With the number of rail passengers in Scotland at the highest level since 1960, Transport Scotland and First ScotRail recognise the importance of continuously striving to deliver service quality for rail passengers in Scotland.

Transport Scotland is the executive agency which began business at the start of this year. It is responsible for road, rail and concessionary travel and is determined to help make public transport as attractive an option as possible to encourage more people to travel by rail.

As well as focusing on the punctuality and reliability of trains, the agency also focuses on the customer service that passengers receive through a regime known as SQUIRE. Its purpose is to drive improvements in the quality of service provided by First ScotRail and contributes to ensuring one of the toughest rail performance monitoring regimes in the UK.

The regime involves a team of 16 SQUIRE inspectors who will make regular unannounced visits to each of the 340 First ScotRail stations and travel on approximately 200 trains every 4 weeks to inspect the customer services that First ScotRail provide to customers. The landmark expansion of the regime from all 184 stations in the Strathclyde area at the start of the franchise to all 340 First ScotRail services was achieved during August 2006.

The regime is made up of 39 service schedules or checks, 20 of which apply to areas of the station and 16 to areas of the train (the remaining checks apply to other areas such as management and are audited separately). Areas inspected range from graffiti, toilets and timetables to train cleanliness, staff and the public address system.

For each of these areas the SQUIRE inspector will audit against a clearly defined set of targets. If performance does not reach a set level then First ScotRail will be given a penalty. Alternatively, if the performance of First ScotRail exceeds the level then it can be rewarded with bonuses.

A daily report on each inspection is fed back to First ScotRail and they are given a short time in which to rectify any problems that an inspector has recorded. A follow-up inspection is then carried out to ensure that action has been taken. Failure to do so would result in a financial penalty. The results of these inspections are reported on a quarterly basis.

A research exercise was recently carried out with passengers across the country to find out which of the customer service issues they prioritised. The results from this will allow passengers from spring next year to visit the Transport Scotland website ( to look at the results of First ScotRail's performance on these key areas for their particular journey or the stations they use.

Heather Battson, Rail Quality Improvement Manager for Transport Scotland, said:
"This scheme has already made a difference in some parts of the country and we want to see those benefits rolled out right across the country. The SQUIRE team are determined to help First ScotRail provide the highest level of customer service for rail passengers on all lines, including those in the north of Scotland. If we want to build on the 75 million passenger journeys in Scotland last year, then the team has a vital role to play in helping to achieve that."

Contributed by Joanna Clabburn, Transport Scotland