More must be done to regain customer trust, says ScotRail boss

ScotRail must do more to regain the trust of customers following a decline in performance levels, rail boss Alex Hynes has said.

Mr Hynes, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, made the admission to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday as they scrutinised proposals on how improvements will be made.

The Scottish Government has issued two remedial notices to ScotRail since December, requiring the operator to submit a plan on how it will address performance issues.

Passengers were faced with a significant number of delays and cancellations in December following the introduction of a new timetable, as well as the late delivery of new trains.

Last week, ScotRail announced it would invest £18 million to improve services, as part of a remedial agreement reached with Transport Scotland.

“The fact that we are sat here today is an indication that the service that some of our customers have received hasn’t been good enough,” said Mr Hynes.

“We’re sorry to those customers who’ve been affected and we know that we must do better.

“I’m confident that we will do better through the delivery of this remedial agreement with Transport Scotland.

“With this remedial agreement, we will invest an additional £18 million to give our customers the service they expect and deserve.”

ScotRail has said that the funding will go towards measures including the recruitment of an additional 55 drivers and 30 conductors, increasing the number of technicians to deal with train incidents and boosting the number of people working in ScotRail’s control room.

The operator also outlined that it would increase its peformance improvement fund to £500,000 per year.

Mr Hynes said: “We must do much, much more to regain the trust of our customers but things are moving in the right direction.

“ScotRail will face further challenges throughout the course of 2019 – training new drivers takes 18 months in total.

“We remain at the mercy of our train suppliers who have let us down badly in the past.

“And although Network Rail is investing more than ever to prepare for the extremes of Scottish weather, its unpredicatable nature will continue to significantly impact Scotland’s railway.

Despite the increased investment, Mr Hynes said that a target of 92.5% of services running on time may not be reached for another two years.

Speaking to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee after Mr Hynes, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said that failure to meet just one of the 19 commitments in the remedial plan could lead to the Scottish Government terminating Abellio’s contract.

He stated: “As the First Minister has already said they are in the last chance saloon. So if they don’t get it right, that should make it very clear to them what the potential consequences can be.”

Mr Matheson accepted that the late arrival of new and refurbished trains had had an impact on services – but said ScotRail had failed to manage major timetable changes brought in at the end of 2018.

He said the timetable change, which was introduced in a bid to improve services, was based on assumptions that were “wrong”.

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