ScotRail (Performance)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st December 2016.

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Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on what steps it is taking to improve the performance of ScotRail. (S5O-00417)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

As Mr Kelly will no doubt be aware from last week’s statement to Parliament, I have instructed the production of a performance improvement plan. Details of the 249 actions in the plan have now been published on ScotRail’s website. I continue to closely monitor the effectiveness of the plan in improving the performance and punctuality measure figures so that they are on a trend towards our challenging and ambitious but achievable contract targets.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

Today’s discussions about a potential public sector bid are driven by concerns about performance. One of the barriers to an early public sector option for ScotRail is the existing contract with Abellio. What steps has the minister taken to assess how an early termination of the Abellio contract could be achieved at minimum cost to the public purse if performance does not improve?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

First, the reason why a public sector operator will be able to bid when a franchise opportunity comes up is not because the issue is driven by the current situation, but because we had it in our manifesto, we stood on that manifesto and we won the election.

That is why the discussions are taking place.

Secondly, and to try to be helpful to James Kelly, I note that passengers would not thank us for starting the discussion by saying that, if our railways are failing, we should rip up the Abellio contract right here and right now. Instead, we should be asking how we can work with Abellio to improve performance for passengers right here and right now. That is why we have a 249-point improvement plan. In the meantime, let us do the constructive work that we are doing.

Neil Bibby, who is sitting beside James Kelly, was at the meeting that I mentioned and made some constructive suggestions around some of Labour’s ambitions for a public sector operator. Let us work towards that while realising that it will take time for a public sector operator to make a bid. We have to have the right vehicle, to be sure that the right statutes and guidelines are in place, and to ensure that the right expertise is also on board. We are doing that work now because, as James Kelly knows, there is the potential to invoke a break clause in 2020. That work will continue in earnest.

Let us all get together to ensure that, right here and right now, we get the best performance from the company and the best experience for passengers and commuters across Scotland.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

The ScotRail franchise contains the toughest quality regime for the United Kingdom in driving up standards for passengers. When standards fail to meet the prescribed level of service, what specific penalties can be levied against the franchise holder?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The member might be aware that we have the toughest auditing regime on these islands. The service quality incentive regime—SQUIRE—looks at a range of measures, from the cleanliness of toilets at stations right the way through to rolling stock issues. If ScotRail Abellio does not live up to those high auditing standards, it has to make a financial contribution, and the previous contribution was of the order of £500,000. The important point is that we ensure that that is invested back in the railways. Members from across the chamber have previously suggested where improvements could be made and I am open to those suggestions.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

I recently received a number of complaints from constituents about overcrowding on the Waverley line. On Saturday 19 November, a football match and a rugby match coincided in Edinburgh, creating higher than normal demand. What action is the Scottish Government taking in the short term to ensure that sufficient capacity is provided to meet demand for transport to events?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

When a major event takes place, ScotRail has a special team that comes together to manage it. That includes considering the capacity on trains and moving passengers safely from the station to the venue.

Overcrowding tells a story of growth in passenger numbers. Since 2007, our railways have become 33 per cent more popular. On top of that, we have increased the amount of rolling stock, including the number of carriages, on our network. From 2007 through to our ambitious plans in 2019, 50 per cent more capacity will be added to the network. In 2007, 140 carriages were added, and between now and 2019, we will add another 200 carriages.

The member can be assured that we are doing what we can to increase capacity. We will always look for opportunities to increase capacity and add more rolling stock. I am more than happy for the ScotRail team that does the planning and co-ordination for major events to give the member a briefing if she would find that helpful.