Scotrail changes: Fife SNP politicians fear service cuts will impact on commuters
Sweeping plans to shake up the rail timetable in Fife next year have run into more political opposition.
Scotrail’s proposals would leave Fifers with a poorer, less frequent service 0 sparking criticism across all parties.
If they are approved by the Scottish Government, it would mean a 30% increase in journey times between Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh - and fewer trains.
The changes come as Scotrail looks to recover from a pandemic which saw passenger numbers sklump by almost 90 per cent across Scotland.
At the height of lockdown, the large car park at Kirkcaldy station, normally packed with commuters, was completely empty.
And while numbers have improved since then, the challenges remain, but Scotrail’s blueprint for local services in 2022 is hugely contentious.
The proposals include:
One train per hour between Edinburgh and Dundee calling at all stations via Kirkcaldy;
One train per hour between Edinburgh and Perth calling at all stations via Dunfermline;
One train per hour between Edinburgh and Kirkcaldy calling at all stations via Kinghorn.
One train per hour between Edinburgh and Glenrothes with Thornton calling at all stations via Dunfermline.
The Fife Circle Line would also be badly hit.
Yesterday, Kirkcaldy’s SNP politicians united to voice their opposition to the plans.
David Torrance MSP, backed by councillors on Kirkcaldy area committee, has written to Scotrtail urging it to listen to local feedback and concerns.
He said: “Kirkcaldy and other communities on the routes concerned stand to be adversely affected by the changes which will deny opportunities for people living here and discourage interest and even investment in the town and the region.”Of particular concern is the proposed hourly service north to Perth and Inverness.
“Diverting all trains to Perth via Dunfermline will mean there will need to be a change at Ladybank adding a substantial increase to the length of journey.” he added.
Mr Torrance branded the reduction of the twice hourly service to Edinburgh via Kinghorn to just one as “disastrous for the area” adding: “These are lifeline services for local villages, allowing people to work and study.
“They also provide a valuable means of travelling to and from the capital’s airport.”
He continued: “If Fife circle trains, which provide a link between Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline are removed - there will be no trains between Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes.
This loss of local services will not only negatively impact individuals on a daily basis, it will also detract people from rail use and force them into cars with a consequent detrimental effect on carbon emissions, at a time when communities and countries are coming together to protect our environment.”
The SNP criticism joins the wave of protest from Labour and Green politicians as Fife faces up to a poor rail service post-pandemic.
Kirkcaldy fought long and hard to force improvements after numerous complaints of over crowding, station skipping and cancellations which impacted on many commuters to Edinburgh, leading to a lively public meeting with Scotrail chief, Alex Hynes.
Scotrail’s current proposals come on the back of a huge slump in passenger numbers during lockdown - and a need to re-think the way it operates as people’s travel patterns change with many now working from home.
The blueprint for Fife does outline additional peak capacity will be provided between Edinburgh and Glenrothes with Thornton via both Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, but it has run into huge criticism for the cuts that will come in May if the Scottish Government gives it the green light.
The changes were branded a “slap in the face for commuters” by Labour MSP Alex Rowley, while Green MSP Mark Ruskell hosted an online public meeting, and Claire MSP Baker demanded greater flexibility.
Scotrail’s consultation is now open - and Fifers need to make their voices heard.
The train operator is proposing what it says is “a new, better performing, timetable” which will work with around 2100 services per weekday.
And it said the areas with the biggest changes are because there are simply more seats than passengers
Alex Hynes, Scotland’s Railway managing director, said: “We are committed to delivering a service that is safe, reliable, green, and clean.
“Our job is to keep people moving and connected to business, leisure, and education while meeting the expectations of our customers.”
Unveiling the consultation, David Simpson, operations director, spoke of offering “a different service” - but will that be enough to impress commuters in Fife?
He said: “The significant cost of running the railway following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic means it’s essential that the railway meets the changing needs of customers, as well as provides the taxpayer with best value for money.
“Our timetable proposals do that.
“During the pandemic, we’ve provided outstanding, and sustained, high levels of punctuality and reliability for those travelling.
“Our proposals build on that as we know that a safe and reliable service is a top priority for customers.”
Fifers have time to air their concerns in the consultation before the proposals land on the desk of Graeme Dey MSP, Minister for Transport.
He said the exercise offered “a real opportunity for customers and businesses to help shape a reliable and responsive timetable change” adding: “Organisations up and down the country are reflecting on how they can provide great customer service while at the same time ensuring their businesses are fit for the future.
“Rail is no different and that is why it is essential ScotRail review changes in travel patterns across Scotland so that timetables best meet demand.”Have your say at: https://www.scotrail.co.uk/fit-for-the-future