Scrooge railway bosses urged again to halve fares over Christmas and let children go free
MSP has urged Scotrail to give a half price present to passengers.
By Bill Heaney
Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie has again called on ScotRail to offer half price rail travel to customers travelling to and from Dumbarton, Cardross, Balloch, Renton and Helensburgh as an apology for the poor train service.
The MSP has launched an online petition following weeks of poor service in the area, with trains constantly being delayed or cancelled leaving passengers stranded and having to make alternative travel plans at the last minute.
The petition has now racked up over 600 signatures from angry passengers who want to see the train service get back on track.
Ms Baillie has written both to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport and to ScotRail Alliance Managing Director Alex Hynes on several occasions, as well as raising the matter in the Scottish Parliament.
The latest performance figures for the train company show that trains are running on time to Dumbarton Central just 55% of the time, but less than 50% of the trains stopping at Balloch and Helensburgh Central were punctual.
In a further blow to passengers, the train company have also announced that from January 2nd 2019 they will no longer offer their ‘Kids Go Free’ deal and generally prices are set to rise.
Jackie Baillie said: “ScotRail’s performance over the last few months has been nothing short of abysmal. Passengers have been subjected to delays and cancellations at short notice leaving them stranded at stations across the country.
“Services for passengers in Dumbarton, Balloch and Helensburgh have been particularly bad with less than 50% of services at Balloch and Helensburgh arriving on time, if arriving at all.
“And there is still station skipping going on despite assurances that it wouldn’t.
“I have written to both the Cabinet Secretary and Alex Hynes to complain about the inconvenience faced by commuters.
“People pay a substantial amount of money and do not deserve such an appalling service. With over 600 people, and counting, signing my petition urging ScotRail to get back on track, it’s time that they listened and acted.”
Now ScotRail passengers face even more disruption over staff shortages
Transport union RMT currently has an overtime ban in place on ScotRail, and users across Scotland are facing continued disruption due to staff shortages on trains.
Union members are refusing to work overtime or on rest days. They are in dispute over rest day payments for train staff.
ScotRail have asked passengers to check their routes before they travel.
Meanwhile, ScotRail has been accused of “Scrooge-like behaviour” after it ended a free travel scheme for children.
The rail provider said from January the Kids Go Free option, allowing an adult to take up to two children on a return journey for free, would end.
Instead each child aged between five and 15 will be charged £1.
Transport union TSSA has criticised the move saying an adult travelling once a week with two children would face an annual bill of £104.
ScotRail said that children under the age of five would still travel for free.
ScotRail insisted the move opens up cheap travel opportunities for more customers, as the scheme includes free child entry to Scottish attractions such as Edinburgh Zoo and Deep Sea World.
A spokesman said: “We are committed to providing our customers with the opportunity to travel across our services and the Kids for a Quid offer is available on a wider range of adult tickets.
“This provides families with the opportunity to travel throughout the country, and take advantage of free entry to the many attractions that we have been able to secure.”
The leader of TSSA, Manuel Cortes, said the decision to “slap fares on kids earns them my Scrooge-of-the-year award”.
He added: “One of the last decent things you could say about ScotRail was their policy to let kids go free. What a rotten way to treat our children – and their hard-pressed parents.”
The news prompted commuters to react with dismay on social media.
Blake Scott said: “This is stupid. Kids go free encourages family to travel by train as it’s cheaper than taking the car.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP branded the new scheme a “rip-off”.
Mr Smyth said: “With Christmas less than a few weeks away it is sad to see bosses at ScotRail acting like Scrooge by taking free rail travel away from children across Scotland.
“The Kids Go Free scheme is a fantastic initiative which encourages families to use public transport and not be out of pocket for doing so.
“This rip-off fare rise will see passengers handing out even more money to a private company which is failing them time and time again.
“I hope ScotRail see sense and give our children the gift of free rail travel for another year this Christmas.”
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman, Jamie Greene, said: “This won’t be a huge cost saving for ScotRail and, given the amount of money they have in various fine-related funds, it’s hard to see why they would end this.”
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “We recognise fares increases are unwelcome, particularly when performance falls short of passengers and ministerial expectations.
“The impact on passengers has been minimised by capping increases for regulated ScotRail peak fares at the level of the retail price index (RPI), and regulated off-peak fares 1 per cent lower than inflation.
“We await the RDG’s proposals for industry change, resulting from its recent consultation on rail fares, which we will consider together with the interests of Scottish rail passengers and taxpayers.”