SCOTRAIL has has recorded its worst end of year punctuality performance for a decade.

But ministers insist calls to rip by the contract held by Dutch transport firm Abellio are "short-sighted".

New Office of Road and Rail figures reveal that the proportion of trains that arrived at their destination within five minutes of schedule slumped to 82.4% for the period from October 1 to December 31, which includes 22 days of the post-new timetable chaos.

That's 1.6% worse than the same period in 2017 and the lowest third quarter performance since 2010.

The regulator has revealed the number of punctuality failures attributed to signal operations trebled, while the issues put down to issues with train crew soared by nearly two-and-a-half times.

The analysis reveals that punctuality failures attributed to ScotRail rose by 6%.

Jo Swinson, the East Dunbartonshire MP and deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats launched a public survey on Thursday following concerns about punctuality on the Milngavie line.

Herald analysis last month showed that the percentage of on-time services which arrive within 59 seconds of their booked arrival time, at Milngavie had improved only slightly from 25.6% in the period April 30 to May 27 last year to 27.7% now and remained one of the worst rates in Scotland.

Ms Swinson went on social media to raise her concerns as she experienced a cancellation on the line.

She said: "Frustrated passengers on Hillfoot platform this morning told me how frequently this happens - and ScotRail can't even get timely, accurate information to people."

She added: "This is simply not good enough."

She said the survey would be taken to ScotRail and "demand better train services".

ScotRail said in response that its performance since the timetable disruption has been improving although the trains operator run by Dutch transport company Abellio accepted it had suffered "challenging times".

It comes as ScotRail continued to cut the number of carriages into February primarily due to a shortage of train crew in the wake of the introduction of a new timetable on February 9 which led to widespread disruption for commuters.

The scale of disruption caused by staff being trained how to operate new trains saw an average of 46 services a day axed towards the end of 2018.

The train operator said in launching the new timetable that its new electric and high-speed trains including the environmentally friendly Hitachi Class 385 stock would allow shorter journey times, more seats and more services on updated routes to build "the best railway Scotland has ever had".

Most of the disruption that has hit Scots railways since the timetable launch was due to ScotRail staff shortages, and the train operator said that was partly because many had been undergoing training on the new trains too late to be ready for the timetable launch.

The train operator said that was partly caused by the late arrival of the new Hitachi Class 385 and high-speed InterCity trains.

The operator said that a lag in staff training was made worse as a result of RMT industrial action over a pay dispute that lasted several weeks, and was resolved in December.

It has been confirmed ScotRail has submitted a remedial plan to address falling performance levels which if unsuccessful could result in a breach of contract and lead to Abellio losing the ScotRail franchise early.

The Scottish government demanded this plan after the central belt of Scotland was hit by a series of cancellations after the timetable launch.

It is now being considered by Transport Scotland and if agreed will become a contractual remedial agreement.


A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: "ScotRail’s performance has been unacceptable – that is undeniable. The recent third consecutive period of improvement is a small but welcome step towards the overall longer term change. There is still work to be done and Ministers are clear that focus must remain on delivering the remedial plan in an effort to restore performance to the high standards both they and passengers quite rightly expect and deserve.

"Any calls to rip up the current contract early are short-sighted, not least in terms of the costs this would bring to the public purse and the upheaval to staff. Additionally, under current reserved legislation we would still be required to run another competitive exercise to secure a new operator."

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “It has been a challenging time for Scotland’s Railway. While we know that our performance has not been good enough, it is encouraging to see our punctuality continuing to improve across the country.

“With more than 2,400 services every weekday, we run more trains than ever before, and everyone at the ScotRail Alliance is working flat out to provide customers with the service they deserve.”

The ORR figures show that punctuality failures due to fatality and trespass incidents were up 25% quarter-on-quarter while issues caused by bad weather were up 61% and fleet failures were up 12%. Station delays were down 18% and points failures dipped by 50%.

ScotRail’s latest monthly overall punctuality performance stands at 93%