ScotRail’s pledges to improve services in Fife got off to an awful start this week, with a number of cancelled trains on the first day alone.
While the rail firm said customers would see improvements and a greater number of seats with the launch of a new timetable, at least eight services through the Kingdom were cancelled on Monday alone.
The cancellations were also not helped by a reduced number of carriages which was attributed to “train faults” and “a shortage of staff”.
The apparent staff shortage comes despite a recent work-to-rule dispute with the RMT union being resolved.
One commuter has become so frustrated with the service that he has launched a petition calling for improvements.
James Bell has seen so many cancellations, late trains, and overcrowded carriages at the Burntisland station that he hopes that his petition can focus the frustrations of bewildered passengers.
The petition calls on Transport Secretary Michael Matheson to make improvements on the Fife Circle Line, and already has close to 1000 names.
“It’s just general frustration with the service, particularly on the Fife circle line, “ he said. “There have been consistent problems.
“In the last year it’s gone downhill. ScotRail even had to introduce the Fife Fiver scheme back in April to recognise the particular difficulties on the Fife Circle. Since then it has really deteriorated.
“There have been cancellations, delays, changes in platforms, and it catches so many people out every single day.
“So many people were sharing their stories on social media that I thought we could focus our attention and direct our frustrations more constructively, so I put the petition together.
“I didn’t know what the response would be but it’s been overwhelming. It shows how many people have really suffered in the recent months.
“There’s also overcrowding on the trains, and ScotRail keeps saying on social media that it wants to deliver the best railway that Scotland’s ever had, and who doesn’t want that?
“It’s how it is delivering it. Is it actually delivering it in the best way possible with the least amount of disruption? I would say ‘no’.”
Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy Conservative councillor Kathleen Leslie said that she has had many members of the public raise their concerns with her.
“It seems that long-suffering Fife commuters are in for another winter of delays, cancellations, and severely overcrowded trains.
“I have had a number of constituents contact me who have been affected, some where the abysmal service has led to them being late for work. This is having a direct impact on people’s lives.
“At the weekend, I travelled by train to Edinburgh and counted 23 passengers at the end of one carriage, the health and safety implications are horrifying. Does Scotrail actually think this is acceptable in 2018?
“Passengers are paying increased prices for a reduced service. It simply is not good enough. Fife always seems to be at the back of the queue when it comes to rail travel.”
Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance is among a group of Fife MSPs that is calling for urgent action to be taken to address the service disruptions affecting Fife passengers.
The group, which includes Jenny Gilruth, Annabelle Ewing and Shirley-Anne Somerville, says that ScotRail’s recent performance has fallen below expected standards
Mr Torrance said: “ScotRail must provide a reliable service for customers who want to use the train to get to work.
“My constituents who pay for, and rely on, these services are being let down far too often, irrespective of the cause.
“ScotRail published a performance improvement plan in the spring following concerns being expressed last winter about service levels.
“My perception is that passengers are not currently seeing any benefit from it.
“I have submitted a freedom of information request to Transport Scotland seeking data on how many train cancellations and stop skipping incidents have affected stations in my constituency during November.
“Unreliable services caused many problems for local passengers this time last year, resulting in hardship during the busy festive period. I expect better this year. So do my constituents.”
Claire Baker MSP said: “ScotRail goes from incompetent to farcical. In an apparent bid to get ready for the new timetable, commuters had to deal with delays and cancellations due to ‘staff training.’ Turns out, it was all for nothing and the service has seen little improvement.
“The inability to sort Fife services is as breath-taking as the hypocrisy from the SNP and Tory politicians.”
A ScotRail spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to our customers who have experienced disruption to their journey.
“Anyone delayed by 30 minutes or more is entitled to compensation through our Delay Repay Guarantee. Just keep hold of your ticket and claim on the ScotRail website or mobile app.”
Last December saw the standard of seervices take a nose dive, with last minute cancellations, station skipping, overcrowding, and delays.
The Fife Fiver ticket was launched earlier this year to apologise for poor services in the Kingdom, however the scheme was largely derided for only being available during off-peak times and had to be booked in advance.
To sign James’ petition, go to www.change.org/p/michael-matheson-improve-the-fife-circle-line