ScotRail to go ahead with cutting 250 daily trains from pre-pandemic timetable
ScotRail is to press ahead with cutting 250 services from its pre-pandemic timetable despite the biggest public consultation response in its history.
The reduction is only slightly less than the 300 originally proposed when the plans were announced last August.
It means Scotland’s main train operator will run some 2,150 daily trains from May compared to around 2,400 in 2019.
However, it has been running only around 1,850 since January because of staff Covid-related absences, compared to around 2,000 in December.
The firm said this reduction of some 150 services would be restored later this month.
ScotRail said it had made “some alterations to its initial proposals” following feedback in 3,450 responses to the consultation, including retaining all-day direct Edinburgh-Perth service via Kirkcaldy rather than Dunfermline as planned, with more evening Fife trains.
Transport minister Jenny Gilruth had campaigned against Fife cuts as a Fife backbencher last year, as The Scotsman revealed yesterday.
A daytime half-hourly service will be reinstated on the Borders railway to Tweedbank “on a trial basis to test how quickly off-peak demand recovers and grows beyond pre-pandemic levels” after it was reduced to hourly during the pandemic.
ScotRail said there would also be an additional early morning service from New Cumnock to Glasgow, along with evening peak and late-evening services from Glasgow to Dumfries.
The interval between services at the stations between Perth and Inverness would be better spaced, with more trains stopping at some stations.
ScotRail also said more services would be added to the Edinburgh-Glasgow Central routes via Carstairs and via Shotts routes in December this year and May next year “due to a delay in driver training caused by the pandemic”.
The operator said nearly half of those responding to the consultation said they previously commuted by train to work every day but would work from home for some of the week for the foreseeable future.
It said peak hour travel remained at under half of pre-pandemic levels and it was not yet clear if they would ever fully return, but the new timetable could accommodate that.
By contrast, it said off-peak passenger numbers had recovered to 82 per cent and were expected to return to 2019 levels by the end of the year.
ScotRail operations director David Simpson said: “This timetable is the start of the process of recovering from the pandemic and as passenger numbers increase, we will keep the number of services under regular review.
“What is clear from the evidence we’ve made publicly available is that providing a good rail service does not on its own attract significant numbers to public transport.
"Train operators, government, and trade unions need to work together to encourage other policy levers to be used.”
Ms Gilruth said: “I’m pleased ScotRail listened and responded by revising the proposals to ensure that post-pandemic, more people will have more opportunities to travel in Scotland by train.”
But Rail Maritime and Transport union Scotland organiser Mick Hogg said: “It’s a very significant cut.”
Kevin Lindsay, Scotland area secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “Today the Scottish Government sat back and allowed ScotRail to start the process of a managed decline on Scotland’s railway.
"The flawed consultation which disadvantaged disability groups has seen the biggest cuts in our railway since the Beeching cuts in the 1960s.”