Minister publishes report

Yousaf says latest work delivers better rail service

ScotRail train Waverley
ScotRail: need for improvement (photo by Terry Murden)

Disgruntled rail passengers across the central belt were today promised more reliability and more seats following a £19m investment in the fleet.

It will see an upgrade of 334 trains which mainly run on the services from Edinburgh to/from Helensburgh and Milngavie through Bathgate, Airdrie and the low-level platforms at Glasgow Queen Street.

It also increases the number of six car trains able to run on the network.

The Scottish government – under pressure to rectify ongoing complaints over poor service – says it will improve reliability with on-train systems and improved punctuality from reduced coupler defects.

The work, completed by the ScotRail Alliance and funded by the train owners, Eversholt Rail, has seen the fitment of new heated couplers on all 40 of the Class 334 three-car electric units.

The new couplers also increase the speed at which train units can be linked and separated, improving turnaround times and allowing the ScotRail Alliance to match the number of carriages to passenger demand more effectively.

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, viewed one of the improved c334 trains at Waverley Station, after giving a keynote speech at a rail conference in Edinburgh.

The Minister has also responded to pressure by publishing ScotRail’s performance improvement plan.

He said: “This upgrade, part of a total investment of £475m across all of ScotRail’s fleet, is just one of actions we are taking to provide customers across Scotland with access to more modern, accessible and reliable trains.

“By making these coupler upgrades we are taking steps to ensure performance is lifted on the line from Helensburgh to Edinburgh and the number of seats is increased.

“And we have completed this work in record time, with these improvements made to all of these trains in just six weeks.”

This engineering work is part of a major expenditure package on all Class 334s to install new power sockets, lighting, heating, cycle spaces with a rollout of free on-board wi-fi across the fleet to come.

The coupling improvements to the trains were delivered in a record time, taking only six weeks and ensuring as little disruption as possible for passengers. Both Eversholt Rail and Alstom helped deliver the work which has been carried out at Polmadie and Shields depot.

Phil Verster, ScotRail Alliance Managing Director, said: “I’m pleased to announce this coupler upgrade to the Class 334 fleet. It is another milestone achievement in our overall train improvement programme, which sees £475 million spent on refurbishments and new trains for Scotland’s railway.

“We are going through the biggest improvement in our railway since the Victorian era and this investment in our rolling stock is another significant signal of our determination to deliver a railway of which Scotland can be proud.”

Think tank Reform Scotland has backed calls for the devolution of responsibility over Scotland’s rail infrastructure in a report published today.

Mr Yousaf, last week restated the Scottish Government’s call for full devolution of Network Rail in order to help improve the service for Scottish passengers. 

Although Scottish Ministers control the funding and oversight of the ScotRail franchise – currently operated by Abellio – responsibility for the track is reserved to the UK government.  

SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston John Mason said: “Network Rail’s performance affects ScotRail and Scottish passengers every day and it is therefore nonsensical that the organisation is answerable to Westminster and not Holyrood.

” I am not surprised that Labour’s former Transport Minister, Tom Harris, one of the authors of Reform Scotland’s ‘Track to the Future’ report – has supported the common sense approach to hand over control of the rail infrastructure, that impacts the lives of Scottish rail passengers every day, to Scottish ministers.

“While Humza Yousaf, Transport Minister, has acknowledged that performance is not where it should be – the think tank’s report found that 54% of Scotrail’s delays over the last year were attributable to Network Rail.

“Only with full devolution of rail powers can the Scottish Government consider the full range of options for structuring our railways to meet the needs of Scottish travellers. This is the only way forward.”

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