Fife passengers endure train journey misery

Scotrail travellers face an increase in fares.
Scotrail travellers face an increase in fares.

A rise in train fares has been met with intense criticism, even following assurances that improvements will “truly transform” rail services.

Fares across Scotrail, which is run by Abellio, increased by 1.9 per cent this week – despite regular criticism of delays and cancellations.

On Friday, Fife passengers travelling home from Edinburgh were stunned at the lack of trains available.

A disgruntled father-of-two from Kirkcaldy said: “I got the last train back at around 11.15pm which terminates at Dundee.

“When it pulled into Haymarket it only had two carriages and was already packed full.

“It took me about five minutes to actually squeeze myself on, which I did by literally centimetres.

“It was now dangerously full. I had my hands stuck down by my side and couldn’t move them because it we were all so tightly packed in. It was like that for the whole journey back, and it was boiling hot.”

He added: “At least I got on – there were dozens left behind at Haymarket.

“From talking to the people on the train I learned that there had been a Hearts v Aberdeen match on, so obviously there were going to be fans of both teams heading north, as well as a Paulo Nutini concert on at Princes Street Gardens.

“So why were there only two carriages?

“Doesn’t Scotrail have someone who looks at upcoming events and plans for these sort of situations?”

Abellio, which was awarded a £7 billion, ten-year contract last year to run Scotrail services, has been regularly criticised for poor performance.

The Dutch state-owned firm last year revealed that its Scottish trains contract was used to make healthy ­profits on “limited investment”, which then subsidised fares for train users in Holland.

The latest rail fare increase, which compares to a 4.9 per cent increase on the Virgin Trains East Coast network, has sparked calls by trade union campaigners to re-nationalise the network.

In a statement issued to coincide with the train fare rise, Humza Yousef, Scottish Transport Minister, said 2016 was a challenging year for the rail industry because of the scale of disruption and delays but he was “confident ScotRail can and will deliver the kind of services passengers deserve.”

He rewarded passengers for “continued custom and patience” by announcing a £3m initiative to give one week’s free travel to monthly and annual season ticket holders.

Mr Yousef also pledged an array of improvements including track upgrades and said more seats would “truly transform” the network.

Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, commented: “After all the delays and disruption people have had to put up with on the railways, no passenger should face a fare hike when they return to work this week. The bottom line is that fares will still rise to record levels this year for the vast majority of passengers.

He concluded: “It is insulting to ask passengers to pay a penny more for the shocking ScotRail service they have been receiving.”