Assurances given on railway performance

A train makes it way through Newtongrange, where like the majority of the route it is single track.
A train makes it way through Newtongrange, where like the majority of the route it is single track.

Scotland’s Transport Minister has given assurances that “there will be consequences” if ScotRail fails to deliver performance improvements on the Borders Railway.

Humza Yousaf was responding to Midlothian South MSP Christine Grahame (SNP) during a Holyrood session last week. It followed the recent publication of the Borders Rail Monitor report which found that in 45 weeks out of 52 since October 2015, the service failed to meet ScotRail’s target of 92.5 per cent of trains arriving within five minutes of schedule.

In reply, Mr Yousaf said that in his view ScotRail’s performance levels had not been to an acceptable standard, which was why he had requested an improvement plan from ScotRail. He added:“Within that plan and the actions around it, there is a focus on the Borders route’s performance.

“I am closely monitoring and reviewing progress to ensure that better performance is delivered.”

But Ms Grahame pointed out that although the recovery plan had been implemented in September, three trains had been cancelled on October 20.

One from Tweedbank had to terminate at Newtongrange due to door problems, and even the next day there had been two cancellations.

She asked: “Does the minister consider that the recovery plan is having any effect?”

Mr Yousaf claimed ScotRail had to be given time to be able to enact an improvement plan, and that a serious amount of work was going into that – £14 million was being spent on refurbishment and improvement of the class 158 units which operate on the Borders line.

The minister added that he was well aware of Borders Railway campaigners’ criticisms about forecast methodology, rolling stock and track infrastructures, and he was happy to continue discussing those matters with them.

He told Ms Grahame: “An improvement plan is in place, significant funding is going into that and we are going to give ScotRail the time to ensure that its performance improves. I will monitor that closely and if it does not improve there will be consequences.”