ScotRail to cut 300 services in state ownership

ScotRail has announced that it is planning to cut about 300 rail services per day from May 2022 — proposing a new timetable to operate around 2,100 services per weekday compared to about 2,400 before the Covid crisis.

The proposed timetable is more than the current 2,004 daily services — cut because of lower demand during the pandemic.

The ScotRail train franchise will be run by the Scottish Government as an “operator of last resort” when the current contract with Dutch firm Abellio ends in March 2022.

“Our analysis shows prior to the pandemic, on a number of routes across the country, significantly more seats were being provided than were required for the number of passengers travelling,” said ScotRail.

“For example, under five and a half million passenger journey miles were completed on a typical weekday, which was just 23 per cent of the available number of seats.

“In other words, seats were empty for 77 per cent of the distance that was travelled.

“Returning to a pre-pandemic timetable would result in trains operating 26 million more vehicle miles each year for little customer benefit.

“As well as increased emissions, that would increase ScotRail costs to the taxpayer by £30 million to £40 million each year.”

ScotRail said in its full statement: “We will be unveiling plans for the new timetable from May 2022, showing that it is ‘Fit For The Future’.

“It’s part of a public consultation, as customers return to using Scotland’s Railway.

“ScotRail has reviewed the timetable across the whole network to ensure the service meets the needs of customers and the Scottish Government’s aims as Scotland recovers from the pandemic and in the future.

“We are proposing a new timetable operating around 2,100 services per weekday as the foundation to encourage a return to public transport following the pandemic.

“Most customers will find the number of calls at their station and the destinations served are similar to today.

“However, there are some areas where there is greater change, which is being done for several important reasons.

“Our analysis shows prior to the pandemic, on a number of routes across the country, significantly more seats were being provided than were required for the number of passengers travelling.

“For example, under five and a half million passenger journey miles were completed on a typical weekday, which was just 23 per cent of the available number of seats.

“In other words, seats were empty for 77 per cent of the distance that was travelled.

“Returning to a pre-pandemic timetable would result in trains operating 26 million more vehicle miles each year for little customer benefit.

“As well as increased emissions, that would increase ScotRail costs to the taxpayer by £30 million to £40 million each year.

“The proposed new timetable will also focus on improved punctuality and reliability of services, building on the record punctuality delivered during the pandemic.

“Research from Transport Focus has highlighted this is a key priority for customers.

“The proposed new customer focused timetable will reflect predicted levels of service as well as the need to provide the best value for money for taxpayers.

“ScotRail said the proposals are a new starting point and in the future, new methods of analysis developed during COVID-19 will refine and improve the service offer as the operator learns more about how customer travel behaviours are changing.

“The consultation will be open from 16:00 on 20 August to 1 October to seek opinions on the proposed timetables from our customers and stakeholders.”

Aslef, RMT, TSSA and Unite trade unions said in a joint statement: “It is incredible that in the year that the world comes to Scotland to debate the very future of our planet that ScotRail is proposing cuts to rail services in a transparent attempt to use the pandemic as cover for cuts.

“These plans would not only cull jobs, they would hit the most vulnerable hardest including elderly and disabled people.

“All the while diverting many passengers back onto the roads and increasing pollution, congestion and greenhouse gases.

“It is exactly this type of short-term thinking that has contributed to the climate crisis.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.