Thousands of North East and Fife commuters could be left stranded after the Scottish Government’s Transport Minister has admitted that no solution has been found to plug the gap left by timetable changes to CrossCountry train services later this year.
From December 2017 cuts on the Aberdeen to Edinburgh route proposed by CrossCountry Trains could mean that regular passengers will be forced to find other means of transport.
In replies to a series of parliamentary questions from North East MSP Mike Rumbles, the Scottish Transport Minister revealed that Scotrail will be unable to take on these services. The Minister also revealed that he does not hold details of the relationship between the Department for Transport and the franchise operators.
Mr Rumbles said: “The Scottish Government is asleep at the wheel while thousands of rail passengers from the North East and Fife could be left high and dry.
“The Minister has more or less admitted that he is in the dark about how the service franchise is run, and has done nothing about a solution. The government will need to get a grip of this quickly if it wants to put a replacement service in place before the end of the year.
“It’s the job of the Transport Minister to work with his Westminster counterpart on this.
“Rail users have been let down time and time again by this incompetent Scottish Government. We need assurances that someone is taking this issue seriously and that the Minister will find a solution before commuters are forced to make changes to their travel arrangements.”
Notes to editors:
The parliamentary answers can be found below:
- Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government whether the future ScotRail high speed trains on routes to north east Scotland will be able to absorb additional passengers that might be displaced by the withdrawal of CrossCountry services, as set out on page 16 of CrossCountry's consultation on its future timetable.
Humza Yousaf: ScotRail is developing timetables for both the introduction of high speed trains and its Revolution in Rail enhancements which will deliver significant capacity improvements. We are confident that these new timetables and the planned delivery of additional trains would be capable of filling any shortfall in capacity, from December 2018, caused by the potential removal of CrossCountry services.
I refer the member to the answer to question S5W-04295 on 14 November 2016 for further information relating to Abellio’s commitments to introduce new and refurbished rolling stock.
Since we have no confirmation, as yet, of the service plans for the new CrossCountry franchise we will continue to support the retention of all cross-border operator services and expect to be fully consulted on this matter by the Department For Transport.
All answers to written Parliamentary Questions are available on the Parliament's website, the search facility for which can be found at http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx
- Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with other train operators regarding replacing the CrossCountry trains services that are proposed to be withdrawn in December 2017.
Humza Yousaf: We have contacted ScotRail about the implications of replacing the services that CrossCountry are proposing to cut in the North East of Scotland. ScotRail have confirmed that they would be unable to take on these services in December 2017 due to operational reasons and a lack of rolling stock.
Accordingly, we have made representation to CrossCountry seeking clarification on whether the Department for Transport has cut funding for these services. We also made clear that we would expect CrossCountry to secure and fund an alternate provider for these services should they be in receipt of DfT funding, under the Franchise agreement, to provide these services.
- Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government what response it has made to CrossCountry's consultation on proposed changes to its future timetable.
Humza Yousaf: We submitted a formal response to the CrossCountry consultation on 21 December 2016, copied to relevant Regional Transport Partnerships in Scotland, that set out our position on the proposed December 2017 timetable changes. We continue to support the retention of cross-border operator services and expect to be fully consulted on this matter by the Department for Transport.
Our analysis of the proposals identified a number of issues, and we have therefore been unable to support Cross Country's new timetable proposals. We have asked CrossCountry to provide further information and clarification in respect of funding and provision of services specified in their franchise agreement.