Public consultation launched on proposed new ScotRail schedules
ScotRail unveils its plans for the new schedules from May 2022.
It comes almost 18 months after Scotland entered its first Covid-19 lockdown, resulting in the worst financial crisis the rail industry has ever seen, with passenger numbers falling 90%.
ScotRail has been able to continue operating during the pandemic with significant financial support of over £ 400million in the form of Scottish Government Emergency Measures Agreements.
ScotRail made twelve schedule changes in a period when there would normally only be three, giving the rail operator concrete evidence on which to base their schedules going forward.
There has been a gradual increase in the number of customers returning to the railroad due to the easing, and now the end of, the majority of coronavirus restrictions.
Passenger journeys have reached around 50% of their pre-Covid levels, however, evidence shows that in the future customers will use the railroad in different ways traveling at different times and for different purposes .
The rail operator is proposing a new, more efficient schedule operating around 2,100 services per weekday as a basis to encourage a return to public transport after the pandemic.
Most customers will find the number of calls to their extension and the destinations served are similar to today.
However, there are areas where the changes are more significant, which is being done for several important reasons.
ScotRail analysis shows that before the pandemic, on a number of routes across the country, far more seats were provided than was needed for the number of passengers traveling.
For example, less than five and a half million passenger-miles were flown on a typical weekday, which was only 23% of the number of seats available.
In other words, the seats were empty for 77% of the distance traveled.
Returning to a pre-pandemic schedule would result in trains running an additional 26 million vehicle kilometers each year with little benefit to customers.
In addition to an increase in emissions, this would increase ScotRail’s costs to the taxpayer by £ 30-40million each year.
The proposed new schedule will also focus on improving the punctuality and reliability of services, building on the record punctuality provided during the pandemic.
New services are being added on some routes, such as Dundee to Glasgow which will benefit from an hourly service calling at all stations between Dundee and Stirling.
On other routes, travel times may be slightly longer, as it is more efficient to operate one long train calling at all stations than to have two shorter trains that divide the calls between them, for example between Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh.
Many routes will experience little change from the current schedule.
Alex Hynes, Managing Director of Scotland Railways, said: “Scotland’s Railway is committed to providing a safe, reliable, environmentally friendly and clean service. Our job is to keep people on the move and connected to business, leisure and education while meeting the expectations of our customers.
‘The pandemic has changed the way people travel across Scotland, so our services will reflect these varied travel patterns and provide reliable schedules, with sufficient capacity to meet pre-COVID and sustainable demand levels.
Graeme Dey MSP, Minister of Transport, said: “Organizations across the country are thinking about how they can provide great customer service while ensuring their businesses are fit for the future.
“Rail is no different and that is why it is essential that ScotRail examine changes in travel patterns across Scotland so that timetables best meet demand.
“This consultation exercise offers a real opportunity for clients and businesses to help shape a reliable and responsive schedule change from May 2022.
“I encourage anyone interested to share their point of view”
The consultation is open until October 1 to collect opinions on the proposed timetables.
ScotRail’s website, ScotRail – Fit For The Future can be accessed at https://www.scotrail.co.uk/about-scotrail/fit-future.