FORMER First Minister Jack McConnell has launched a scathing attack on trains running for the Edinburgh Festival, telling operator ScotRail to “get a grip” on its services.
In an outburst sure to chime with thousands of commuters, Lord McConnell berated the standard of facilities on a train travelling into Edinburgh.
The 53-year-old used Twitter to voice his displeasure at the lack of air conditioning on yesterday’s 9.36am train from Stirling to the Capital, tweeting: “Come on #scotrail trains to Edinburgh in August with no windows/aircon and 2 carriages. Get a grip!”
Lord McConnell – a supporter of the Edinburgh Fringe programme – later said he “might need an ambulance” as he was “almost passing out”.
His criticism prompted a rapid response from ScotRail. The company tweeted an apology before leaping to its defence, explaining it was running its biggest-ever Festival timetable.
The operator said it was using every train at its disposal to provide at least 330,000 seats on an extra 5469 carriages over the course of the four-week extravaganza. The increased commitment includes later trains and new services.
However, rail consultant and author David Spaven said there were issues with the quality of some of the trains being used by ScotRail.
He said Lord McConnell had likely been travelling on a class 158 train, which he said had been “plagued by air conditioning problems since they had been introduced in the 1980s”.
“They’re basically not very good trains,” he said. “We are stuck with certain types of trains and we don’t necessarily know when they are going to be replaced. That’s one of the problems.”
ScotRail’s verbal battering comes in the wake of the announcement fares for peak-time travellers are to rise by 3.1 per cent in January. Watchdog body Passenger Focus has said the hike must couple with improvements in services.
ScotRail – whose franchise is up for renewal in 2015 – said: “We’re using all the trains we have at our disposal to provide our biggest-ever festivals timetable. This is a move which has been welcomed by festival organisers and customers.”
They added that some services would still be busy as they only had a “finite supply of trains”.