TRAIN station chiefs are being forced to send out “begging messages” to colleagues for toilet roll, bin bags and other supplies after loss-making ScotRail slapped a restriction on orders.

The Herald has seen a series of emails and internal messages, sent over the past 11 days, requesting help to cover for the inability to obtain deliveries, with staff claiming they are not being approved.

Staff at one station in Cupar, Fife, have even suggested they might have to close their public toilets as they could not get paper towels.

Other items which stations have requested help as they are unable to order them include bleach, toilet cleaner and printer ink.

The issue arose after ScotRail chiefs decided to cut back on station supply orders to reduce costs.

RMT union’s regional organiser, Mick Hogg, said he was “surprised and shocked” by the development and that he was taking the matter up with ScotRail management.

A message circulated to stations and booking offices in the north of Glasgow in August, seen by The Herald, spelt out the restrictions.

“As you are all aware we are trying to save money across the company, stores order is the focus of this at the moment,” the message said.

“I know a lot of stations have recently submitted new stores order, however, can you now please resubmit these orders and reduce in half from initial order.

“We need to be more economical with our supplies, I know this is going to mean certain stations will then be short of certain items – where this is the case, please contact neighbouring stations and utilise what stock they have. 

“I can’t emphasise enough the need to be working together around this, I know it will be challenging. 

“No one station owns any supplies, the whole Glasgow North area must work collaboratively.”

Details of the staff concerns come a matter of weeks after a failed attempt to strip franchise-holder Abellio of its contract.

A parliamentary bid to end Abellio’s franchise three years early failed last night amid bad-tempered exchanges between SNP and Scottish Labour politicians at the beginning of October.

And, last month, ScotRail was accused of cutting back on toilet paper and soap on its trains by its main union.

Workers say the train company was pinching – rather than spending – pennies across its trains and stations in a desperate attempt to break even.

The RMT, which represents rail staff, claimed the savings include essentials for train toilets, which will be closed more frequently as a result.

ScotRail refused to comment on the claims but said toilets on trains and stations had been deemed satisfactory by inspectors. Mr Hogg said they were aware of supply shortages but there had since been an agreement that this would be addressed and there would be “no repeat”.

“This is why I am disappointed if it is still the case,” he said. “It is not acceptable with a big company like ScotRail.”

Now The Herald can reveal that stations have been seeking help from other stations over shortages. 

On Wednesday one email sent to all North Clyde stations said: “Hi guys. I know it’s a long shot but does anyone have any spare toilet tissues they could send to Milngavie?”

Some booking offices and stations have begun joking about the situation.
In one message, a booking officer asked: “Anybody got any paper?”; another replied: “Trade you for Sellotape.”

Another interjected: “I’ll trade you a blue pen, a red pen and a bottle of Tippex.”

Another internal message that was seen by the whole of ScotRail from October 28 from a ticket examiner asked why there are no hand towels, soap and toilet paper in most of the station staff rest areas in and around Glasgow. 

One Glasgow station booking office responded: “In order to save the company money. Stations never got a stores order last month."

The examiner responded: “That is a disgrace, surely we have the right to basic hygiene products whilst at work...”

An email from a west Dunbartonshire station to others in the north Clyde area, from October 27, also made an urgent request for help.

“Sorry folks but again I need to ask if anyone has any spare toilet rolls or hand towels they could possibly send to us...as due to stores delivery running late we are on the verge of running out... which as you know is a main bothy for drivers and ticket examiners. Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated.”

One long-serving train station customer service officer said the requests were “no joke” and believed they were the result of the stores restrictions.

“These are serious requests,” he said. “It is getting ridiculously embarrassing.

“What happens is this, we request our toilet tissue, pens, printer paper etc from a stores manager, that requisition, if approved, is then sent to fulfill the order. Stations are not getting the stores requested because the orders are not being approved so the requisition is not forwarded for fulfilment. 

“It is down to Scotrail. “

Abellio ScotRail’s made a pre-tax loss of £17.9 million in their last set of accounts for the year to December, 2017 - its biggest deficit since taking over the franchise in April, 2015.

Abellio, the Dutch transport operator, won a ten-year ScotRail tender contract, replacing Firstgroup. The Abellio Scotrail subsidiary set up to run the franchise made a profit of more than £12 million in the 2015 calendar year, followed by a loss of £2.7 million the next year.

The Scottish Government, however, has given the company official warnings in the past on its performance.

ScotRail said that essential items such as toilet roll and cleaning products “remain a priority” and that nowhere in the business is expected to function with them.

A ScotRail spokesman said: “ScotRail values each and every member of staff and we are absolutely committed to ensuring they have the best possible working environment.

“Like any business, we are always looking to improve efficiency. All of our stations have supplies and we are working hard to ensure that we get the right balance of provisions across the country.”