SCOTRAIL has been fined more than £2.2 million in just six months after breaching a series of targets.

The operator fell short on a number of key measures such as customer service and security, as well as for having unclean trains, toilets and stations.

Between January and June this year, it was fined a whopping £2,241,837 by Transport Scotland, something ScotRail's bosses described this week as "progress".

The figures come hard on the heels of data which revealed that ScotRail’s reliability over the last quarter hit a record low and its punctuality was the worst recorded since 2005.

Critics say the Scottish Government has handed ScotRail a ‘licence to fail’ after it emerged they will not enforce the train operator's performance benchmarks until June next year. 

Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, said: “I know I join hundreds of train users here in Fife in thinking this shambles simply beggars belief.

“The Scottish Government should be standing up for hard-pressed passengers by demanding better service but instead they’re happy to lower performance standards to protect this franchise at any cost.

“These benchmarks were set for a reason, namely to protect paying passengers by ensuring they could rely on decent service.

“Instead, for years now, weary commuters have endured late, overcrowded and, especially here in Fife, overpriced trains.

“Bear in mind, this £2m fine is effectively funded by the taxpayer through subsidies in the first place, so passengers are essentially paying twice: by paying both the fine and the misery of having to depend on shoddy rail services.”

The Press has been fighting since November for better services on the Fife Circle for West Fife commuters, with our Crush Hour campaign highlighting overcrowded and unreliable services, while we've also been calling for a lter, midnight train back to Fife from Edinburgh on Fridays and Saturdays.

ScotRail, which is run by Dutch firm Abellio, missed 15 out of 38 targets between April and June. 

But bosses pointed to a 10 per cent reduction in fines compared to the previous three months.

In the last financial year, the operator was fined £4.6 million.
ScotRail’s penalties are placed into an investment fund and pumped back into Scotland’s railways.

Ms Laird was joined by Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Alex Rowley in calling for the Scottish Government to take back the railway into public ownership. 

Mr Rowley said: “These fines only come in to place when ScotRail fail to meet certain performance measures which shows that the service is clearly not up to scratch.

"But seeing as we subsidise the rail anyway it is hardly a fine for the private operator – it is about time we took ScotRail back into public ownership and bring an end to this farce."

David Lister, ScotRail’s sustainability and safety assurance director, said the latest figures demonstrated “progress”.

He said: “We know there is a lot of work still to be done but these figures confirm the progress ScotRail is making. The investment we are making – in new and refurbished trains, in station facilities, and in our people – is part of our plan to build the best railway Scotland has ever had."

ScotRail Alliance managing director Alex Hynes added: “We faced significant challenges during Storm Ali which had an understandable impact on our performance.

"We know that the disruption affected our customers and we are sorry that their journeys were impacted upon so much during the storm.

“Everyone at ScotRail and Network Rail worked flat out to keep people moving and to get services returned to normal as quickly as possible."

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said action was under way to address areas of concern.

She said: “A hundred and forty extra staff are being recruited to address the staffing issues which lead to ticket offices being closed when they should be open and to improve the availability of on-train staff. 

“An operational review has produced better working processes so that faults with equipment are dealt with more effectively.

“There is still clearly work to be done and we expect to see further progress from ScotRail in the coming months.

"Ministers expect the ScotRail Alliance to work closely together to build on lessons learned going forward, including those set out in the Donavan Review.

“We should not lose sight of the transformational process under way on our railways, including the infrastructure enhancements.

“We have already secured the right for a public sector operator to bid for a rail franchise in Scotland, which will enable a level playing field between the private and public sector in bidding for rail franchises for the benefit of passengers and best value for the public purse.”