• Ayrshire Daily News

Is ScotRail doing enough for Ayrshire after punctuality drops again?


It's the question that's being asked across Scotland and we want your opinion!

ScotRail has admitted its performance "isn't good enough" after the reliability of train services fell below target.

The average combined punctuality and reliability of the trains on Scotland's railways has fallen below 90.3%, prompting Government agency Transport Scotland to instruct the operator to draw up a performance improvement plan.

That plan means that within the next few weeks, three new trains will be brought into service, a campaign will be rolled out to staff and the public aimed at getting trains running on time, vegetation will be cleared from around the tracks and signals will be improved.

A number of longer-term improvements include the identification of so-called "golden trains", which if delayed have the greatest impact on the network and can cause knock-on delays for up to two hours.

The operator now plans to monitor these services throughout their journeys to improve performance.

The rolling improvement plan is expected to cost the company an extra £16 million over the next two years and officials said they are confident it will boost performance.

More than 19,000 people have signed a petition calling on Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to "make ScotRail bosses improve Scotland's trains or strip them of their contract".

Phil Verster, who has been in the post since May 2015, is to become managing director of the East West rail project between Oxford and Cambridge.

The 53-year-old has been facing intense pressure in recent months, because of the rail service's failure to meet targets on punctuality and reliability.

The identity of his successor will be announced in the coming days.

Earlier this week, Mr Verster sparked a row at Holyrood over who would pay for free travel for season ticket holders as compensation for ScotRail train delays.

ScotRail Alliance was formed as a partnership involving Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail, intended to improve performance through cooperation between the rail operator and the rail infrastructure company.

At the time of his appointment, Dutch contract holder Abellio said his track record on improvement and safety made him an "ideal candidate".

A Scottish government spokesman said:

"We are grateful to Phil Verster for his hard work during a transitional time in charge of Abellio ScotRail and the ScotRail Alliance and wish him well in his next venture.

"He has overseen many improvements and considerable investment which will ultimately lead to major benefits for passengers.

"As ever, our focus is not on individuals but helping the industry to deliver the best possible service for Scotland. There will be no let-up as we strive to help ScotRail and others improve the passenger experience over the coming weeks and months."


What's for sure who ever replaces Phil will be expected to deliver not only by the Scottish Government but by travelers alike.

Since Abillio took over from First in 2015 there have been a mountain of issues and complaints along with targets so low that in September the Government had to intervene and with the threat that their contract could be stripped slight improvements have been made but still remain well below target.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Liam Kerr said:

"Recent developments showed that there was friction between ScotRail and the SNP government, and Phil Verster's resignation further proves this.

"This is yet more bad news for Scottish passengers, and raises questions about what impact this will have on improvements to our rail network."

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said

passengers were "fed up with delayed, overcrowded and cancelled trains" and added: "It's clear the relationship between the SNP and ScotRail has broken down."

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said

ScotRail's performance "has not been good enough" but said changing the person in charge would "make little difference".

The Scottish Liberal Democrats called for the transport minister to give a statement to parliament about Mr Verster's departure.


Here is a timeline of the ups and downs of Abellio's time in Scotland so far and Mr Verster's time in the role.

14 October 2014: Abellio wins the ScotRail franchise contract, taking over from Aberdeen-based FirstGroup. The firm wins a 10-year contract, but could be stripped of it in half that time if punctuality targets are not met.

1 April 2015: Abellio formally takes over the running of Scotland's railways.

25 March 2015: Phil Verster is announced as the managing director of ScotRail Alliance, which sees Abellio and Network Rail team up to deliver rail services.

He takes up the job in May.

13 June 2015: Work begins on improvements to the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line, with the Winchburgh tunnel in West Lothian closed for six weeks.

6 September 2015: The new Borders Railway is opened at a cost of £249m, bringing train services back to the Scottish borders for the first time in 46 years.

17 September 2015: ScotRail announces plans to hire up to 100 new train drivers.

6 November 2015: ScotRail is fined £265,282 for failing to meet standards for trains and stations.

21 December 2015: ScotRail announces a £475m improvement plan, pledging new trains, thousands of extra seats and better on-board wifi.

Mr Verster describes the plan as the biggest improvement programme in the company's history, saying 75% of trains will be refurbished or replaced.

15 March 2016: ScotRail pledges a "revolution" in travel for passengers in Tayside and Aberdeenshire, with 200 new services and 200,000 additional seats a day.

20 March 2016: The main tunnel serving Glasgow Queen Street station, the third busiest in Scotland, is closed for 20 weeks, causing major disruption to services.

ScotRail says the work is part of a £60m upgrade project to allow faster and longer trains to use the station.

Image captionScotRail staff went out on strike in June 2016

21 June 2016: ScotRail workers walk out on strike in a dispute over plans to operate more trains without guards.

The RMT union leads industrial action, with ScotRail estimating that about 30% of services are unable to run.

Mr Verster hits out at the "needless" strikes, saying they would "affect tens of thousands of passengers and hurt hundreds of rail staff".

3 August 2016: Mr Verster is "very pleased" as further planned strike action is called off.

6 October 2016: With criticism of services mounting, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is "absolutely committed" to fixing problems, noting that it is "absolutely incumbent" on Abellio to meet expectations.

28 October 2016: ScotRail is fined £483,000 for failing to meet required standards for trains and stations.

9 November 2016: Rail unions stage protests calling for a publicly-owned service.

17 November 2016: Nicola Sturgeon is forced to apologise to rail passengersafter a broken-down train in Edinburgh causes severe disruption.

She notes that "there are options for the contract to be broken early, and we will keep that option under review".

Rail unions subsequently call for the resignation of Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, who refuses to quit.

Media captionHumza Yousaf: "Passengers want to see action now to strengthen the reliability of the rail infrastructure across the network."

20 November 2016: Mr Yousaf invites unions and political parties to hold talks on setting up a public sector train operator, noting that Abellio's contract could be cancelled in 2020.

23 November 2016: Mr Yousaf makes an emergency statement at Holyrood about the recent disruption, insisting that "ScotRail has learned lessons".

On the same day, commuters face further disruption after overhead wiring problems affect services in Glasgow.

24 November 2016: Ms Sturgeon says she will consider freezing rail fares in 2017 in response to the ongoing concerns over services. Ultimately fares are not frozen.

29 November 2016: A major improvement plan for ScotRail is published, with Mr Yousaf demanding "immediate improvement" for passengers.

The plan includes measures to improve punctuality and reliability through a series of local and nationwide programmes, from infrastructure developments to "performance workshops" for managers and staff about running services on time.

11 December 2016: ScotRail unveils the first in its fleet of new electric trains, which Mr Verster welcomes as "a visible symbol of our ongoing massive rail investment".

16 December 2016: The Scottish government announces a £3m package of "targeted discounts" for regular rail passengers to compensate for recent disruption.

2 January 2017: Rail fares increase across the UK.

8 January 2017: The Sunday Post newspaper reveals that Mr Verster received taxpayer money to cover his rent for a year as part of a relocation package.

12 January 2017: "Big improvements" in ScotRail's performance are recorded in the aftermath of the improvement plan being published.

18 January 2017: Mr Verster tells MSPs he "can't vouch" for the discount scheme going ahead, with the government apparently demanding ScotRail pay for it.


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