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Up to one in 10 ScotRail trains have run late since Abellio took control

A ScotRail train (PA)
A ScotRail train (PA)

COMPLAINTS by rail passengers have soared in the 12 months since a Dutch firm took over the ScotRail franchise.

Abellio has been hit by a 38% rise in grievances between the first and final quarters of its first year in charge.

Over the same period, up to one in 10 trains under its control have run late.

The revelations come on the second day of a strike that has all but choked off weekend train traffic.

Today’s industrial action is the 10th walkout workers have held in a dispute that has brought travel misery throughout the summer.

Robert Sampson, passenger manager for consumer watchdog Transport Focus, said his organisation had also seen a rise in complaints about ScotRail.

He said: “It’s disappointing that the rate of complaints made to ScotRail has gone up.

“There has been a small rise in the complaints made to us as well since Abellio took over.

“One of the problems with a new franchise is that there are all these new promises but all these things take time.

“Passenger expectations get raised but then it’s not as immediate as they’d hope.”

When Abellio took over ScotRail last April, the company said there would be faster journeys and more capacity on trains.

However, within months passengers were complaining about overcrowding on services between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Commuters – some of whom were spending £100 a week on tickets – vented their fury at being regularly forced to stand due to a lack of seats.

The rate of complaints made to ScotRail in the first quarter of 2015/16 was 21.9 for every 100,000 journeys.

However, by the fourth quarter – up to March 31 of this year – that rate had risen by 38% to 30.3 complaints per 100,000 journeys.

And grievances may well rise again given ScotRail workers have held 10 strike days since then – hugely disrupting services for the 250,000 people who use ScotRail trains every day. The union, which began its industrial action in June, is in dispute with ScotRail over staffing concerns on new trains.


Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, Neil Bibby, said the rise in complaints was worrying.

He said: “The SNP Govern-ment had the opportunity to do things differently and we called for a pause in the award of the franchise so that public models of ownership could be investigated.

“With the new powers coming to Holyrood over transport, the SNP Government need to look again at this franchise.

“Our railways should be run for passengers, not just for profit.

“Instead of handing over control of our trains to a company owned by the Dutch Government, the Scottish Government should be ensuring that profits stay in Scotland and are invested in our railways.”

The RMT union is campaigning against the increased use of trains without guards, with the driver opening and closing the doors at stations.

The union believes the absence of a dedicated guard would make trains less safe.

However, ScotRail has insisted it would always ensure a second member of staff was onboard every train to assist the driver in emergencies.

The action has led to serious disruption for passengers and impacted major events such as T in the Park and The Open golf tournament.

Michael Hogg, spokesman for rail workers union RMT, said the rise in complaints in Abellio’s first year was a “shambles”. He said: “Since Abellio has taken over there has been a number of failures.

“They have failed to sort out the shambles they inherited.

“They have not employed enough staff in the last year.

“Overcrowding on trains has become the norm because it’s a regular occurrence.”

However, he defended the union’s decision to strike.

He said: “Our dispute is not about money, it’s about safety.”

A spokeswoman for Abellio ScotRail said it has “forged ahead with a major programme of investment” against “a backdrop of unprecedented disruption – planned and unplanned”.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said the strikes were “disappointing” and that it had called for a suspension of further action until discussions between the operator and the RMT have concluded.

In response to the rise in complaints made to ScotRail, they said “Scotland’s railways traditionally perform very well in terms of passenger satisfaction when compared with other operators”.

Case Study

JOHN Roskell, from Lockerbie, is just one passenger to have complained to ScotRail.

John, who has cerebral palsy, was travelling from Aviemore to Lockerbie via Perth and Glasgow on June 18.

The train he got from Perth to Glasgow was two hours late by the time it rolled into Glasgow Central Station.

This meant he’d missed two trains that could have taken him to Lockerbie.

He waited 10 minutes for assistance from train staff and said when they arrived he was taken to the front of the station and left to queue for a taxi. He said he was hungry and needed to rest but couldn’t leave the queue for fear he’d lose his place and have to wait longer.

He said he told staff this but they weren’t interested and left him “to suffer”.

ScotRail said it carried out an internal investigation after John complained to them and deemed it had provided him with as much assistance “as could have been supplied during the severe disruptions”.

It claimed staff were not aware that he needed to rest or was hungry.


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