Response received from Alex Hynes MD of the Scotrail Alliance on 15/5/18
1. Skip Stopping
ScotRail Alliance Update
We completely accept that the practice of trains failing to stop at scheduled stations during a service (skip stopping) was previously overused. This practice enabled us to mitigate the impact of delays across the network and assist us in recovering services so we could get things back to running on time. Contrary to perception, this practice was not used to improve or massage performance figures – when a train fails to stop at any booked station, this is an automatic performance measure fail.
A reduction in skip-stopping was one of the recommendations from the Donovan Review that Alex Hynes (Managing Director, ScotRail Alliance) commissioned earlier this year. This review is now complete and all 20 of the Donovan recommendations have been accepted and are being implemented by teams across the ScotRail Alliance. These recommendations range from improvements to address infrastructure failures to enhancing the level of access to live data to support decision making.
The practice of trains failing to stop at a scheduled station has been suspended except as a last resort, for example when a station is closed or a train must divert due to an incident. If we do need to take this step, this will only happen when we have advised customers before a service departs from its origin station.
From 1 to 28 April 2018, across the entire network, 0.1% of trains failed to stop at booked stations. Since the implementation of the Donovan Review recommendations (1 April 2018) there have been no instances of skip stopping at Bridge of Allan or Dunblane with services running past these stations to onwards destinations. We remain committed to this for the above reasons unless it is an absolute last resort.
2. Early termination of services at Stirling rather than continuation to Bridge of Allan/ Dunblane
The rail line between Stirling and Dunblane has one signalling section that is several miles long. Only one train can occupy this lengthy section at any given time. During the evening peak there are often a number of trains (up to 7) timetabled to go through this signalling section within an hour. If there are delays on the network this presents us with some significant challenges – we need to identify how we can get trains through this long section without causing significant reactionary delay. To prevent trains queuing up to access this long signalling section, our integrated control team identifies how we can manage the situation. One option to enable us to recover the timetable and limit further disruption is to part cancel services at Stirling.
This is not a decision that is taken lightly. Our control centre reviews what the other travel options are for passengers, for example, if customers disembark at an earlier station how long will they need to wait for their next service. Our aim is to minimise disruption for all our customers.
As an example, the week before last, when customers for Bridge of Allan and Dunblane were required to get off the train at Stirling (which arrived at 18.07), they were able to board the train immediately behind, which was also planned to call at Bridge of Allan and Dunblane. This train arrived at Stirling station at 18.10 (3 minutes after the customers disembarked from the service that was part cancelled), then departed at 18.14. Customers were required to alight at Stirling to enable another service to run, the late running 17.11 Queen Street to Carnoustie service, which was fully loaded and already 16 minutes late. Customers on this service did not have an alternative train a few minutes later.
Whenever this happens we fully investigate the reason for the delay, to ensure we can understand the situation and take appropriate steps to reduce future occurrences.
In times of disruption we always try to keep a Dunblane service in operation as we recognise this is a very important route with high customer loadings. Our Stirling / Bridge of Allan / Dunblane customers were unfortunately affected by a number of flooding incidents at Winchburgh Junction over the winter period however much work is being done by ScotRail Alliance teams to improve resilience in this area and reduce future incidents.
We are very sorry for any service alterations and inconvenience this may cause, the decisions that we take are designed to help get the majority of our customers home on time.
3. Lack of carriages to accommodate number of passengers resulting in over-crowded and cramped conditions
Over the last few months a number of our trains have reached the end of their lifespan or lease and it was not possible to retain these units. Due to delays in new Hitachi trains arriving, this has placed some short-term constraints on our fleet. We have secured the lease of 10 electric trains as a temporary measure until the new Hitachi trains are in service. The 10 electric trains will be in operation from mid / late July, providing customers with additional capacity.
As new Hitachi trains arrive, routes such as Edinburgh – Dunblane, will benefit from these longer, greener, faster trains.
From 1 – 28 April, on the Edinburgh – Dunblane line 12 services were short formed. For the same period there were 8 services that ran the Glasgow to Dunblane line that were short formed.
In addition, to the new Hitachi electric trains, the forthcoming Revolution in Rail timetable, which will be implemented from December will fundamentally enhance our service for customers in Dunblane, Bridge of Allan and Stirling, both immediately and for future timetable changes. Customers will start to see improvements from the December 2018 timetable change. Our new timetable is designed to encourage modal shift from both the M9 and M80 corridors.
Revolution in Rail will deliver:
Dunblane – Edinburgh
Half hourly service all day, with more services in the evening than currently
Formed by our new electric class 385 trains – quieter, more comfortable, better on train facilities, greener
Journey times reduce by at least 10min. compared to today – most Stirling to Edinburgh journeys will be 45min or less
Longer trains provide 4,000 additional seats each day
However actual capacity for Stirling area customers increases because the service will no longer call at Polmont & Linlithgow – the busiest stations on the route
Replacement calls at Polmont and Linlithgow will be provided by a new Glasgow – Cumbernauld – Falkirk Grahamston – Edinburgh service Stirling – Glasgow
New electric trains will operate an hourly Alloa – Glasgow and hourly Stirling – Glasgow service
Formed by our new electric class 385 trains – quieter, more comfortable, better on train facilities, greener
Journey times will reduce by around 5 min compared to today
Longer trains provide 4,500 additional seats each day Dunblane – Glasgow
New hourly service which will run non-stop between Stirling and Glasgow reducing journey time by around 10 min compared to today
This will also provide an hourly direct service from Bridge of Allan & Dunblane to Gleneagles, Perth and Dundee
The service will provide 3,000 more seats between these stations each weekday
Health and safety concerns
Passenger safety is our number one priority and we take a range of measures to ensure that capacity is provided to meet demand where possible. ScotRail provide passenger counts as part of the franchise contract to demonstrate that adequate capacity is being provided. The design of train coaches permits services to operate effectively and safely even when fully loaded to maximum capacity however we do realise that this can feel uncomfortable
for customers and to address this we continually monitor customer flows and adjust available resources against demand where practicable and possible.
We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused when our services are short formed and our new fleets of trains which will be introduced in the near future will increase capacity on our network.
I include a link to the ORR’s approach to station and train crowding for your information:
Text alerts do not always advise of trains having a reduced number of carriages
ScotRail do not issue text alerts for short formations, only for cancellations or route disruption. If there is an alteration for a service that is already short formed, the number of carriages would be detailed in the update.
All short formations are inputted into our app and if a customer searches their station on the live/next departures section it will bring up all incidents of short formations. We are working towards push messaging (similar to Facebook alerts) that will strengthen communication to customers about these sort of issues.
4. Dissatisfaction with regard to the standard of service provided by ScotRail to passengers using their services to these destinations In the last National Rail Passenger Survey – which was carried out in autumn 2017 – 85 per cent of ScotRail customers said they were satisfied with ScotRail. This is an increase from 83 per cent at the same point last year. This placed ScotRail above the UK average, which stood at 81 per cent and meant that ScotRail had the best customer satisfaction score of the largest train operating companies in the UK.
We are committed to continuing to improve our passenger experience and once our new Hitachi and InterCity trains are in place, we will deliver 40% more capacity for our customers on trains that will transform how customers travel. This £475 million investment will deliver comfortable seats, free Wi-Fi, usb and power sockets, and a better food and drink offer.
We know that things do go wrong from time to time and our frontline teams work on services and in stations each day, and are there to support our customers and listen to feedback. Our managers travel the route and carry out assessments on a regular basis. Each carriage is now fitted with a unique identification number and any complaints can be reported to our helpline so we can address these.
In Scotland we adhere to the most rigorous Service Quality Incentive Regime (SQUIRE) across the entire GB rail network. We work with Transport Scotland to ensure we maintain high standards on our stations and trains. All of our stations and trains are checked every four weeks, and any faults or areas for improvement are reported and repaired.
We check our stations to make sure lights are on when required, stations and shelters are clean and free from litter, and seats are safe to sit on
We check our trains to make sure seats are clean and safe, there’s a comfortable ambient temperature and toilets are available for customer use
We work hard to ensure our stations and trains are free from graffiti. Following the most recent SQUIRE review we have identified ten priority areas and
developed detailed plans to address the key issues that caused the problems.
Scotland’s Railway is undergoing the most extensive programme of investment in this Control Period (2014 – 19) – infrastructure enhancement and electrification projects, and an extensive train upgrade and refurbishment programme continues across Scotland. Once complete customers will benefit from faster, greener, longer, more comfortable trains and enhanced station experiences. In relation to fares, the majority of these are individually regulated and set by the Scottish Ministers. ScotRail offer a range of fares and discounts, to help customers choose the best value ticket for journeys.