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Minister apologises to MSPs

Yousaf: ‘ScotRail has learned lessons from public’

Humza YousafTransport Minister Humza Yousaf told MSPs today that ScotRail had learned lessons from recent criticism of its performance.

He told parliament that ScotRail’s performance was “not up to scratch” but he said it was higher than the UK average.

During an emergency debate in which he apologised for the network’s failings, he said: “Everyone rightly expects a railway network that operates effectively. So when things go wrong I fully understand the dissatisfaction of passengers and the inconvenience that is caused.

“Although there are no guarantees major failures won’t happen, I give my reassurance that ScotRail has learned lessons and is far better prepared for contingencies, including communication with passengers, when such incidents do take place.”

He added: “I know about the work that is required and the service that is to be delivered. I am taking action and a plan is now in place. This government has a track record of delivering for our railways and it is my firm intention that we will continue to do so.”

On the day of another major breakdown on the system, Mr Yousaf was urged to publish in full the Improvement Plan produced by ScotRail in September.

He agreed to speak to ScotRail about its publication in the interests of “accountability and transparency”.

Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Neil Bibby said the rail service has become worse since Transport Scotland had demanded the plan.

He added: “Humza Yousaf claims he’s not a transport expert – and he’s right. Humza Yousaf must ditch the spin and publish his 246 point improvement plan in full.”

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “This has been another day of delays, cancellations and disruption, harming our economy and delaying passengers.

“And this from a train service Humza Yousaf said wasn’t bad.

“The SNP awarded the current franchise to Abellio, it sets the fares and decides how much overcrowding there is.

“As such it’s the SNP which has to start taking responsibility for the poor performance of our railways.

“The idea of a public sector bid was floated in order to try and win over the rail unions and get the transport minister through a news cycle.

“Even if it were possible, it would be 2022 before it could take over the franchise.

“Mr Yousaf has to understand that passengers don’t want to wait that long, they want improvements now.”

The minister highlighted a number of improvements currently under way:

  • Acceleration of £16 million over two years to upgrade key junctions, track and signalling equipment;
  • A £5 billion five-year programme to 2019 to transform the railway;
  • An extra 200 carriages by 2019: 50% more carriages than in 2007;
  • 70 new electric trains from 2017 providing up to 40% extra seats at peak times on the main Edinburgh -Glasgow route;
  • £475m for new trains and modernising the current fleet to improve reliability and comfort;
  • £14m of which is investment in improving the reliability and comfort of the class 158 diesel fleet, serving much of rural Scotland;
  • refurbishment programme underway across 90% of our existing trains;
  • increased focus at major stations on prompt departures;
  • measures put in place to reduce skip-stopping during peak times.
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