Rail commuters demand action to tackle chronic overcrowding

FED-up with overcrowded trains, rail commuters across the Capital have demanded action to stop them feeling 'crammed in like sardines' on a daily basis.

Monday, 18th December 2017, 3:21 pm
Updated Monday, 18th December 2017, 3:25 pm
Picture: Contributed

Thousands of passengers travel in and out of the city by train each day, with many feeling unhappy with the service provided due to frequent delays and packed carriages.

Debbie McAllister, 54, travels to Edinburgh Waverley from Newcraighall every day and wants more carriages added to services.

She told the Evening News: “It is normal on this line to have delays and it is ridiculous. You can understand a minute here and there, but 15 minutes just isn’t good enough.

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Overcrowding is rife on some services. Picture: Contributed

“And when the train turns up, you’re spending [the journey] stood up because the train is so packed.

“It’s not a comfortable or reassuring feeling when you’re stood up because you just never know when something might happen on the line.

“We need more carriages on a regular basis, not just on the odd train the service providers feel will be busy. We pay good money for these trains but the service provided is terrible.”

It was revealed in October that Scotland’s railways will receive more than £3.6 billion over five years from 2019-20, an increase of £600 million on the previous period.

Picture: Contributed

Many hope the coming electric trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh will improve the current overcrowding.

However, they will be borrowed from other routes because a brand-new fleet for the line won’t be ready until March.

In the meantime, two Class 380 trains will be drafted in to run some services on ScotRail’s flagship route via Falkirk High.

Humza Yousaf, transport minister, said: “The introduction of electric services is a key milestone in the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme and yet another sign that our £5bn investment to 2019 is helping build the best railway Scotland has ever had.

Overcrowding is rife on some services. Picture: Contributed

“It also paves the way for the arrival of our new fleet of class 385s, to be phased in over the coming months, offering passengers faster, greener and longer trains.

“I’d like to offer my personal thanks to all the many people who have worked on this significant electrification project as their efforts come to fruition.”

However, one Linlithgow resident, who travels to Haymarket for work every day on this line between Scotland’s two biggest cities, feels the introduction of the new trains won’t have the positive impact required for passengers.

She said: “We all know that the long-awaited “bigger, faster trains” from Glasgow are on their way, but their arrival has been put back three times now.

Picture: Contributed

“I’m not convinced this will make a huge difference in rush hour as the trains are already overcrowded.

“Maybe more people will get a seat but are we meant to be grateful for that small luxury having endured months of disruption, discomfort and higher and higher fares?”

She said her worst experience was when a 5.39pm Alloa service stopped at Edinburgh Park and the train guard asked people to get off the train so the doors could be shut.

She said: “Sometimes I could squeeze myself on to a train but quite honestly I can’t face it, so wait for the next and risk being late for work.

“I used to be able to get a seat most mornings on the 7:45am, now it’s more like one in five mornings.

“More and more trains are half the size they should be. The service is far from being value for money; the recent ­announcement that fares are to increase by the highest percentage in years is another slap in the face.

“ScotRail know there’s a lack of alternative travel options for the majority of train users so are irreverent in the way they treat their customers.

“They concentrate on shouting about how great the new trains are going to be and ignore the current issues.

“There must be a number of people with health issues, such as those who suffer from panic attacks, go through great distress knowing they can become unwell at any time or are not able to get to a loo because the carriages are packed with people standing.

“Get some ScotRail management onto these busy trains and let them experience just how unpleasant and unacceptable the situation has become.

“Make themselves visible and engage with their customers. It might not be safe for them though.”

It comes after train passengers travelling to the Capital recently on a CrossCountry train on the East Coast mainline claimed people were fainting in overcrowded, standing room only train carriages.

Other passengers, many of whom were travelling to the Capital to visit the Christmas market, said they were left in tears after their ordeal on the same CrossCountry service.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is investing more than £5bn to build the best railway Scotland has ever had as a fundamental part of our efforts to encourage rail use and with that bring economic benefits across the country.

“More than £475m of this is being invested in rolling stock, with 200 extra carriages being introduced in the next 18 months.

“This will take the total ScotRail fleet to more than 1,000 carriages and provide more capacity on services up and down the country.

“We continue to work with ScotRail on more immediate solutions to overcrowding and recently fitted automatic passenger counting equipment which will enable better targeting of rolling stock.”

ScotRail revealed extra carriages were to be added to the busiest services on key routes across the Central Belt every Friday night and during weekends until Christmas.

But residents of Edinburgh feel they have not been looked after during the winter months, which have also seen their services increase in demand.

Andrew Stead, 28, of Eskbank said: “We can’t keep going on like this.

“Yes, the trains have been busier during Christmas, but this is an issue most people face regularly.

“We need more carriages and more reliable trains in order for a service we all deserve.

“You get so many excuses as to why trains are late and it’s not what we pay our money for.

“You wouldn’t think paying for a reliable service with enough space for your ­passengers would be too much to ask.

“If we’re getting the Glasgow line electrifying, then we need the rest doing too. It’s the way forward, but so many lines are being left in the past now in ­Edinburgh.”

A ScotRail Alliance spokesman said: “We are doing everything we can to increase the number of seats for our customers on services to and from Edinburgh. The recent introduction of electric trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Falkirk High means we can run seven-carriage trains and provide more seats.

“During the busy run-up to Christmas we have added more late-night services between Edinburgh and Glasgow, to get people where they need to be.

“We have also recently significantly increased the number of seats available for services between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, including during rush hour.

“Our services are very busy, particularly at this time of year, and we would encourage customers to plan ahead by checking our app or by visiting scotrail.co.uk.”