First Minister defends Scotrail amid claim ‘one in five trains running late’

Nicola Sturgeon has defended ScotRail after its punctuality record was questioned at Holyrood.

Scottish Labour MSP Chris Smyth criticised the rail franchise’s performance at First Minister’s Questions, claiming one in five trains is late.

He asked Ms Sturgeon what would need to happen for her to take action against operator Abellio.

Mr Smyth said: “Punctuality has plummeted to a new low, with one in five trains running late. Passengers are sick and tired, and deserve better.

“So far the First Minister’s response has been to give ScotRail a free pass to break their PPM benchmarks and to team up with the Tories to block Labour’s plan to end this failing franchise.

“Can the First Minister tell us how bad does it have to get before she takes meaningful action?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “Of course we deeply regret any inconvenience to passengers.”

She said “severe weather” had contributed to delays while approximately half could be attributed to Network Rail (NR).

The First Minister added the Office of Road and Rail took formal action against NR on Thursday morning in an attempt to deliver improved performance.

Ms Sturgeon was also questioned by the South Scotland MSP about about reports 29 of ScotRail’s franchise obligations are not expected to be delivered on time.

She responded by saying: “Of the 272 obligations, in total ScotRail have already delivered 128, with a further 115 on track for delivery by their due date.”

“On the 29 obligations … 14 were listed as overdue we expect most of these to be achieved in 2019.

“Of the 15 obligations where the delivery date is considered challenging, most have the potential to be delivered by the first part of 2019.”