Rail Services (Safety and Accessibility)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 7 March 2024.

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Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking, including through discussion with the United Kingdom Government, to ensure that rail services are safe and accessible for all. (S6O-03166)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Although rail safety and accessibility are reserved to the United Kingdom Government, the Scottish Government has fully funded the Office of Rail and Road’s independent determination of Network Rail’s costs to deliver a safe and high-performing network.

Officials at Transport Scotland meet regularly with representatives from the Department for Transport and Network Rail to discuss various matters, including safety and accessibility. Only last week, I met the chair of the Network Rail board and the chair of the Office of Rail and Road board to discuss how the Scottish ministers’ requirements will be delivered by Network Rail.

Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

Anyone who regularly uses the railway will have witnessed the benefit of having a safety-critical guard on the train. I personally received invaluable assistance recently in supporting a young female passenger who was being harassed by an older male.

I know that the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that public transport is safe and accessible for all and is mindful in particular of the challenges that are faced by women and girls who are travelling alone.

Will the cabinet secretary use her influence to implore publicly owned ScotRail to show that it is, too, and to keep the guard on ScotRail services?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

While staffing is generally a matter for ScotRail as the employer, the Scottish Government continues to specify a requirement that all ScotRail services should have a second staff member on board to assist passengers. In addition, Transport Scotland is taking forward with stakeholders the 10 recommendations from the work on women and girls’ safety on public transport.

I can also relay that ScotRail’s travel safe team is successful in its operation, and is doing joint patrols with British Transport Police where there are areas of antisocial behaviour that can cause difficulties.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

The ScotRail high-speed trains reportedly contributed to the tragic outcomes at Carmont, as they are less safe than trains that meet modern standards. The Cabinet Secretary for Transport and her predecessors have consistently refused to give me a date for replacement. Many suggest that that is due to the cost of the break clause in the contract with the rolling stock company.

Could the cabinet secretary confirm whether financial considerations play any part at all in the refusal to replace those HSTs?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I say very politely to Liam Kerr that he raised a similar point recently, and he was wrong and misrepresented the findings of the Carmont board in relation to those trains. What I can say, though, on the aspects of replacement is that that is an active consideration. We are engaging in replacement, and we will inform Parliament at the due point.

In relation to the member’s point, therefore, it is not about cost; it is a recognition that we need to replace those trains in line with other aspects, including—as he knows—the decarbonisation of the line at Aberdeen South. I would implore him—I have written to him; I am not sure whether he has received the letter correcting him in his misunderstanding—to consider that it is really wrong to misrepresent the Carmont safety board and its recommendations.