Midlothian South MSP slams ScotRail’s lack of planning

A train pictured on the Borders Railway at Eskbank.
A train pictured on the Borders Railway at Eskbank.

Midlothian South MSP Christine Grahame has criticised ScotRail for a lack of workforce planning at Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

Her comments came after ScotRail’s CEO Alex Hynes said that recent cancellations were “not due to not having enough train crew, they were due to not having enough train crew trained”.

The operator has been criticised for numerous cancellations on the Borders Railway, particularly in recent months.

Under questioning by Ms Grahame, it also transpired that ScotRail had not previously had anyone with overall responsibility for workforce planning, with introducing this role in future a part of its remedial plan to improve services.

The CEO of ScotRail Abellio was appearing before the committee of MSPs following the publication of an £18 million remedial plan in response to being issued with an improvement notice by the Scottish Government in December as a result of low levels of passenger satisfaction. A further improvement notice was issued again in February as a result of multiple cancellations of services due to ongoing staffing issues following a timetable change, although a remedial plan in response to this second notice has not yet been published.

Ms Grahame (SNP) said: “It would appear that ScotRail has recruited sufficient staff – indeed they currently have 1000 applicants for driver roles – but it has completely failed in planning for what routes they’ll be needed on and when they’ll be trained on them.

“This is made all the clearer by the fact there has been no-one with overall responsibility for workforce planning, which is frankly astounding.

“I accept they have said they will now introduce this as a role and that the new timetable was planned before the current CEO took charge, but I cannot imagine my constituents in Midlothian, and passengers across Scotland, will be overly impressed at this lack of basic planning.

“Ultimately ScotRail knew the new timetables were coming, so how did no-one anticipate the staffing issues with insufficient trained on certain routes? Mr Hynes explanation that they had enough staff but not enough staff trained rather brings to mind the “wrong kind of leaves” on the line – only this time they had the wrong kind of staff.

“We must now see real improvement in staff planning to reduce cancellations and improve reliability if current ScotRail franchise holders Abellio want to keep it.”