The ScotRail Alliance has admitted further delays to its train improvements as its punctuality fell for the eighth month in a row.
Managing director Alex Hynes revealed to MSPs the first of its refurbished InterCity trains on the Aberdeen-Edinburgh would not enter service until at least July, rather than May as planned.
He also said a planned ten-minute cut in journey times to 42 minutes on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line would not be fully introduced until next year.
Only some trains would run at the faster time in December as scheduled. Mr Hynes told the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee that the troubled brand new Hitachi electric fleet for the line and other routes was still months away while new windscreens were fitted and software problems solved.
The setbacks came as new figures showed a further fall in the key punctuality measure on which ScotRail is judged. A total of 89.3 per cent of trains arrived at their destinations within five minutes of schedule in the year April. That is down 0.2 percentage points on the previous month.
However, 92 per cent of trains hit that target during April, up 1.1 points on March and the highest since September.
There was further misery for passengers yesterday with an electrical fault near Rutherglen causing widespread disruption to cross-city trains in Glasgow, which has the biggest network outside London.
The latest of a series of problems followed Glasgow Central – Scotland’s busiest station – being shut on Saturday night by overhead line damage, and signalling faults in Glasgow on Tuesday.
Mr Hynes said refurbishment of the 40-year-old InterCity trains, which have come from Great Western Railway, had been a “challenge”, but he wanted to get the first completed one to Scotland from the works in Doncaster as soon as possible.
He said they would transform travel between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness with more carriages, legroom and tables.
He said ScotRail’s performance problems were partially because ScotRail had dramatically cut the number of trains which skipped stops during disruption to minimise knock-on delays to other trains.
Mr Hynes said the 70 per cent reduction in skip stopping last month had resulted in a corresponding fall in passenger complaints, but it had meant the rail network took longer to return to normal.
He said the shortage of trains caused by the Hitachi delays, and others coming to end of their leases, would be more than offset by ten new trains going into service in July on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line.
New windscreens are being fitted to the Hitachi trains to remove a “slight double imaging at night” which drivers said caused problems with seeing signals clearly.
Mr Hynes said: “An alternative design is being fitted to the trains this week. Initial indications are the windscreen is much better than its predecessor.”
Liberal Democrat committee member Mike Rumbles said: “ScotRail has had an appalling start to the year.”