SCOTRAIL'S managing director has refused an invitation from the Press to join West Fife commuters to experience conditions on a rush-hour service for himself.

Following the launch of our Crush Hour campaign last week calling for better services to and from Edinburgh, the Press wrote to Alex Hynes detailing commuters' complaints and asked him if he would accompany a reporter to see these problems for himself.

We wrote: "Last week, the Dunfermline Press, launched a campaign calling for better rail services to and from Edinburgh for our readers.

"For months, if not years, they have been complaining to us about the poor service, saying they are sick of being crammed in like sardines into packed carriages and stressed as to whether they will make it to work on time or even be back in time to pick up the kids from nursery or after-school clubs.

"They're fed up of trains being delayed or cancelled, or skipping stations to make up time and hit targets.

"Now we would like to invite you to accompany a reporter and our readers on an evening rush hour train travelling from Edinburgh home to West Fife so that you might be able to see for yourself the problems our hard-working readers are encountering on a daily basis, with a view to working together to help improve their daily commute.

"We look forward to your reply."

Responding to our invitation, a ScotRail spokesman said: “We understand the frustration of customers when services are disrupted. We do everything we can to keep people moving, so that they can get to where they need to be.

“The investment we are making across the network will mean more seats and better services for our customers. We’ve been able to find a better balance in the number of available seats and customer demand in Fife. From the December timetable change, we will be adding additional carriages to some of our most popular services on weekdays, and at the weekend.

“As we advised the Dunfermline Press last week, any time a train misses a scheduled stop it is automatically counted as a missed target. To suggest otherwise is just wrong.”

The Press replied: "To be clear, what is ScotRail's answer to whether Mr Hynes will come and travel with a reporter on a service?"

To which the spokesman responded: "Mr Hynes will not be coming." Though the spokesman did add "background" which stated: "Mr Hynes travels on the network to and from work every single day and knows that, while we regularly provide a great service to our customers, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. The most recent National Rail Passenger Survey carried out by the independent Transport Focus saw nine out of ten customers say they are satisfied with ScotRail. ScotRail is also the best performing large operator in the UK."

The same letter was also sent to Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport, but his office said that he unable to come out on a train due to diary pressures.

Mr Yousaf said: I regularly take the train both at peak and off-peak times and understand the frustration of those commuters who do not feel they are getting the high quality service they rightly expect. We know that Autumn is a particularly challenging season for railways across the UK due to weather and seasonal factors. There has been an improvement in ScotRail's performance since the introduction of the Performance Improvement Plan and I continue to monitor performance closely.

“The Scottish Government is investing more than £5 billion to build the best railway Scotland has ever had as a fundamental part of our efforts to encourage rail use and with that bring economic benefits across the country. Over £475m of this is being invested in rolling stock, with 200 extra carriages being introduced in the next 18 months.”

“This will take the total ScotRail fleet to more than 1,000 carriages and provide more capacity on services up and down the country, including Fife. In the meantime, we are working with ScotRail on more immediate solutions to overcrowding and recently-fitted automatic passenger counting equipment will enable better targeting of rolling stock in this region.

“I know reliability is important to passengers and ScotRail’s performance has continually improved over the last year. In fact, this summer saw ScotRail become the best performing large train operator in the UK. However, we are not complacent, and continue to ensure ScotRail’s performance remains at a level which passengers desire and deserve.”