The people of Fife deserve better rail services – that’s the message from Kirkcaldy politicians as the festive period draws closer.
With last December bringing misery for many Fife passengers, there were a number of high-profile failures.
Passengers were furious after being left on station platforms amid last-minute cancellations and overcrowded trains due to too few carriages.
The period also saw a rise in the practice of stop skipping – where a train misses out a station to make up for lost time.
ScotRail last year said an increase in passenger numbers during the festive period was to blame, however, Kirkcaldy-based politicians are calling on the operator to ensure there won’t be a repeat this year.
Kirkcaldy’s MP and MSP both saw their offices swamped with calls from angry commuters last year.
SNP MSP David Torrance has called for an urgent meeting with ScotRail senior management and the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport about service cancellations currently affecting Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn and Burntisland passengers.
He is awaiting results of a freedom of information request to Transport Scotland seeking data on how many train cancellations and stop skipping incidents have affected those stations during November.
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.
“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.
“I am also calling on ScotRail to add capacity to routes serving Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn and Burntisland over the Christmas and New Year, so that trains are able to accommodate the extra numbers of passengers wanting to use them at this time of year.”
Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Labour MP Lesley Laird said: “I hope for the sake of weary commuters that this winter won’t be a repeat performance of last year’s shambles but the omens don’t fill me with positivity. ScotRail blamed bad weather for its woes a year ago, but has failed to meet benchmark performance levels all year.
“What’s more, to keep the contract with Abellio in place, the Government lowered targets rather than stand up for the rights of passengers.
“Fifers deserve better – and I don’t think they’ll stomach another winter of stop skipping, cancelled and overcrowded trains.”
ScotRail says that customers across Scotland will see more seats in the run-up to Christmas, with extra carriages on some services.
The operator said trains between Edinburgh and Dundee/Aberdeen, and also Glenrothes with Thornton, will be among those to have extra carriages.
ScotRail head of customer operations Phil Campbell said: “The lead-up to Christmas is always a busy time of year, and that’s why we’ll be adding more seats on key routes to help everyone get where they want to be.
“Whether customers are heading to the Christmas markets, a night out, or just picking up presents, we hope they have a great time.
“But trains will be busier than usual so we encourage people to plan their journey in advance at scotrail.co.uk/christmas, and make sure they have their ticket before boarding.”
It was recently revealed that some trains going through Fife would return to the out-dated practice of flushing toilet waste on to the tracks.
This was due to newly-refurbished trains being delayed by supplying firm Wabtec, and some older trains being used to cover the Fife service which do not have tanks to store the waste.
It comes less than a year after ScotRail pledged to get rid of the practice back in December 2017.
Last month ScotRail’s new high-speed train broke down in Fife during its first service with passengers.
It was hailed as a “milestone” journey, but the inaugural voyage of ScotRail’s Inter7City suffered a setback when it broke down just north of Ladybank, reportedly arriving in Edinburgh 30 minutes behind schedule.
The Inter7City cost around £2 million to upgrade, with passengers enjoying more seats, more space for luggage, more plug sockets and a greater choice of food and drink.