WE are all aware of the issues surrounding rail travel in Scotland. The government are receiving their fair share of flack for this but the problems go much deeper and Scotrail, as an organisation, is not fit for purpose.

I regularly travel from Renfrewshire to Stranraer in support of an elderly mother. Before the pandemic I would usually travel by train from Johnstone to Stranraer via Ayr.

During the pandemic I travelled by car, but a couple of weeks ago returned to the train. Last Friday was an interesting experience.

I had booked on the 16:18 from Johnstone, changing at Ayr to the 17:32 to Stranraer, arriving at 18:58. Throughout the day I kept an eye on the Scotrail app in case of problems.

At 16:18 when I boarded the train at Johnstone all services on my route were running to time, but shortly before arriving at Ayr the app informed me that service to Stranraer was cancelled beyond Girvan.

At 17:00 Ayr Station booking office was closed, with shutters down (this on a weekday). The station appeared deserted by Scotrail staff.

I found a “Call for Help” box but the person at the other end wasn’t much help as he didn’t know any more than I did, but suggested I board the train and onwards transport would be provided at Girvan.

There were about a dozen of us travelling to Barrhill and Stranraer. The guard on the train told me that the Stranraer section had been cancelled at 16:00 (so much for the Scotrail app). He said that he personally had arranged the onward travel as if I should be grateful. Needless to say, there was no transport at Girvan.

I had anticipated this and had arranged for someone to drive from Stranraer to collect me. When I left Girvan, 45 minutes after the train had arrived, there was still no sign of any transport. I heard later from another passenger who gave up waiting after an hour and boarded the service bus.

If the guard on the train is to be believed, three hours after Scotrail cancelled the train, no onward transport had been provided.

I complained to Scotrail and today received a reply indicating that my complaint had not been read. They suggested that:

* I plan my journey in advance (I had). The timetable is not fit for purpose.

* I use the app (I did). The app is not fit for purpose.

* They were very sorry (they’re not). Customer Services is not fit for purpose.

My advice is that (if you can) you avoid Scotrail for the foreseeable future. They care not a jot for their customers. Back to the car for me.

Stephen G Murray, Erskine.



I READ about the push for driverless buses and cars and now, we have a shortage of train drivers. As anyone thought about driverless trains?

It seems to work in London Dockland Light Railway and may help to temper ASLEF’s expectations.

Ian Craig, Strathaven.

* ALAN Simpson (“Welcome to ScotRail, the first-class railway from the 1970s”, May 20) says: “As it takes a year to train just one driver, Scotland’s railways could see steam locomotives re-introduced by Christmas at the current rate of going backwards”.

In fact, there would be as much chance of a present-day railway motorman learning to drive a steam locomotive by Christmas as of a pub-pool player winning the snooker championship.

Robin Dow, Rothesay.



THE Church of Scotland General Assembly’s decision to let clergy choose whether to marry couples of the same sex (“Kirk lets clergy choose whether to marry couples of the same sex”, May 24) represents the triumph of liberalism after years of strategic constructive cleansing of evangelicals.

This is a Pyrrhic victory, however.

It has been accompanied by a paucity of vocations to the ministry, resulting in such a shortage that churches are being closed throughout Scotland and congregations are being herded together like cattle in the wild west.

There is almost nothing left of the identifiable Christianity of past generations and centuries.

Rev Dr Robert Anderson,Dundonald.


* NOT sure if the Church of Scotland is due a medal for keeping up with the 21st century, but nonetheless we welcome the vote to allow its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages given the importance to gay Christians.

Some oppose this new equality, saying that it’s “unbiblical and sinful” and are glad of the “conscience clause” allowing them to turn away gay couples.

The times they are a-changin’. Would the Alabama bus driver who ordered Rosa Parks to move her seat during the American civil rights movement have been entitled to say, “I didn’t sign up for this!” ?

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society, Edinburgh.



I LIKED James Watson’s idea (letters, May 24) that pitch invasions at football matches could be discouraged if teams are subject to points deductions. However, it might lead to fans posing as their rivals, or cause chaos in finals or league deciders.

Allan McDougall, Neilston.



ANN Ross-McCall’s memories of ‘Operation Bag a Yank’ (“The other side of the Holy Loch protests – the women who sought to ‘bag a Yank’, letters, May 24), brought to mind the British war-time women, known as GI brides, who crossed the Atlantic for a new life in America having nabbed an American soldier.

They were often pictured in the work of the incomparable Glasgow-based cartoonist, Bud Neill (1911-1970).

My favourite: “Mind o’ yon Blackfeet Indian G.I. Jessie went out tae America tae marry? Right imposter, so he wus. Turned out his feet’s no’ ony blacker than Jessie’s . . .”

R Russell Smith, Largs.

* YOUR magazine feature about Polaris submarines at the Holy Loch in 1961 (May 21) brought to mind the spirited protests of CND, which had only recently been established.

Their protests, then as now, were met with hostility and jaundiced scepticism, but it has been gratifying to see the extent to which principled anti-nuclear beliefs have become part of the mainstream.

A. Ferguson, Glasgow.