ScotRail Service Reduction

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st September 2021.

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Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

6. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to reported proposals by ScotRail to no longer run 300 train services from May 2022. (S6O-00078)

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I will provide a full picture of the ScotRail proposal. I am sure that Colin Smyth is not deliberately trying to give the impression that service levels overall have been reduced. The fact is that, under these proposals, we would see an increase of 100 services per day on the current level.

By way of example, the Glasgow to Carlisle via Kilmarnock and Dumfries line, in the member’s region, would benefit.

The review seeks to create a national rail service that meets the country’s needs and travel patterns. ScotRail has examined, pre-Covid, an expected future demand and developed a proposed timetable that seeks to match service patterns with uptake, with scope for additional future capacity, while recognising the need for financial and environmental sustainability.

The proposed timetable is a new starting point, not the end point. It has been designed to accommodate pre-pandemic levels of demand while removing much of the unused capacity on the network. As more people return to using rail, further services for which there is a demand will be introduced. The public consultation provides an opportunity for ScotRail customers and businesses to help shape a reliable and responsive timetable change, and I encourage people to make their views known.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I am sure that the minister does not want to mislead people by implying that the overall number of services will not be reduced compared to the pre-pandemic level, because that is exactly what the proposals are about. Frankly, we will not get people back on our trains by taking their train away. I ask the minister this specifically: will the Scottish National Party-Green Government rule out reducing the overall number of rail services compared to pre-pandemic levels when that new timetable is introduced in May 2022?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

It is, frankly, baffling that a member of the Scottish Parliament can sit here and call for a never-ending increase in services, with no consideration for the cost. The direction of travel that was set by this Government pre-pandemic saw services increase and stations open up—that is the journey that we are on. We are currently—[

Interruption

.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Listen to the response, please.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

As a parliamentarian, I have yet to encounter any set of draft proposals that is perfect or, indeed, that is not ultimately amended in some form as the associated processes work through. It is therefore important that people work through the consultation. However, in doing this work, we have to be realistic because we cannot run services that are little utilised. As we build back, we need to match services to demand and build from there. Alongside all of that, we will be delivering a raft of improvements, such as decarbonisation of the network, new stations and a modal shift for freight from road to rail.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We have a quick supplementary from James Dornan.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

Can the minister tell us what has changed in rail services in Scotland since the SNP came into power in 2007?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

A very great deal—and for the better— is the answer. Under this Government, communities and businesses have benefited from significant investment across Scotland’s railways. We have seen that in the number of seats on trains, the stations that have reopened and decarbonisation. As I said earlier, that is the direction of travel. To characterise it more fully, prior to the pandemic there were 190,000 more seats on our trains compared to 2008.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We have a very brief supplementary from Graham Simpson.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

Minister, is this a taste of things to come when ScotRail is nationalised?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

That is exactly the kind of question that I would have expected from Mr Simpson. The direction of travel that has been set by this Government is clear: investment in rail, decarbonisation of rail and a great deal of support for rail. That is where we are going.