ScotRail cuts more than 40 trains a day over winter due to staff shortages

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More than 1,200 ScotRail services were cancelled in the space of less than a month over winter due to staff shortages at the train operator, official statistics have revealed.

More than 40 services a day were axed between December 9 and January 6 because there were not enough crew members to operate them, the data released by track operator Network Rail shows.

The figures, which illustrate the scale of disruption faced by travellers, led to fresh calls for the Dutch company running the ScotRail franchise to be stripped of its contract. The surge in cancellations was mainly caused by an absence of staff who were being taught how to operate a new fleet of Hitachi class 385 electric trains, which were delivered late.

The figures show that between April last year and January 16 this year a total of 2,691 ScotRail services were cancelled or did not complete at least half of their journey due to crew shortages.

Over the same period, a further 3,644 services were cancelled or severely curtailed because of an issue with the train. This figure is already higher than the total for 2017-18.

Problems such as the weather and non-track issues like power outages have also contributed to disruption so far this year, causing 2,341 and 2,543 cancellations respectively.

Holyrood’s opposition parties accused ScotRail of displaying a “staggering level of incompetence” by failing to complete the required staff training in good time.

“Only ScotRail and the SNP government could buy more trains and end up with an increase in cancellations,” said Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Colin Smyth.

ScotRail said the late delivery of the new trains by suppliers including Hitachi and Wabtec meant there was “very limited time available” for driver and conductor training.

A spokesman added: “This has been a challenging time for Scotland’s railway. While we know that our performance has not been good enough, it is encouraging to see our punctuality continuing to improve across the country.

“Everyone at the ScotRail Alliance is working flat out to provide customers with the service they deserve. We are training more than 20 drivers and conductors every day, and this will deliver continual improvements in the coming weeks and months.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “ScotRail’s performance hasn’t been good enough particularly in terms of the high level of cancellations and performance issues.

“That’s why we took the serious contractual step of issuing a remedial plan notice and we expect ScotRail to implement measures swiftly.”

“While it is clear late delivery of rolling stock and train crew shortages compounded by the previous industrial action had an impact, performance across the UK has not been good.

“Many underlying issues are endemic across UK rail franchises – this indicates a fundamental flaw in the current structural arrangements.”

Last October, ScotRail withdrew its new Hitachi trains, which had been introduced months, earlier due to a “technical fault”, following an earlier issue with driver cab windows.