SCOTRAIL have come under fire for their “farcical” management of the Fife Circle line at Holyrood.

At General Questions at the Scottish Parliament last week, MSPs Annabelle Ewing and Alexander Stewart both demanded to know what action was being taken by the transport minister to fix a catalogue of issues, including overcrowding, delays and cancellations, which have been highlighted by the Press’ ‘Crush Hour’ campaign since November.

Ms Ewing, member for Cowdenbeath, was first to open up the debate, asking the Scottish Government “what recent discussions it has had with ScotRail regarding operations on the Fife Circle?”

After Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Connectivity, replied on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Ms Ewing added: “Can I just stress for the avoidance of any doubt that my constituents are absolutely fed up with ScotRail.

“Those in Aberdour and Dalgety Bay face constant delays, cancellations and overcrowding, as do those in Inverkeithing and North Queensferry.

“And those in Cardenden have to put up with the total farce of not knowing if their train will actually stop in Cardenden, rather than some random station that they have not chosen to go to.

“This is unacceptable. Can the Minister ensure that the Cabinet Secretary will now meet with ScotRail again as a matter of urgency to ensure that they get the Fife Circle back on track?”

In response, Mr Wheelhouse said: “The cabinet secretary and I appreciate how frustrating disruption is for passengers.

“The problems that Annabelle Ewing has highlighted in a number of localities in her constituency are of great concern – I can understand how concerned her constituents are.

“As I mentioned, the cabinet secretary met Alex Hynes earlier this week. He also met the chief executive of Network Rail, Andrew Haines, several weeks ago and reiterated the need for a robust and resilient plan to deliver improvements across the network and provide customers with a reliable railway.

“I am happy to confirm that the cabinet secretary will meet Annabelle Ewing to discuss the matter, and he will also arrange a meeting with the ScotRail managing director.”

Mid-Fife and Scotland MSP Alexander Stewart also expressed his frustrations with ScotRail’s inactivity on improving the continuing commuter hardship on this route. He said: “Many of my constituents on the Fife Circle have to endure the so-called ‘Crush Hour’: “A lack of crew, a lack of rolling stock and chronic overcrowding, together with late running and cancelled trains are an almost everyday occurrence.

“Promises have been broken on numerous occasions and action must be taken now to put a stop to this acute misery for fare-paying commuters.

“What reassurances can the Minister give to my constituents that this intolerable situation will be addressed as a matter of urgency?”

Mr Wheelhouse replied: “We take these matters very seriously, and Alexander Stewart is right to raise them on behalf of constituents.

“Significant investment is now being made by the ScotRail Alliance to further improve the resilience of the rail network, including the Fife Circle, through the recommendations from the Donovan independent performance review that was commissioned earlier this year.

“The recommendations will help to deal with infrastructure, fleet and operational reliability issues across the country.

“Additionally, the industry is delivering performance interventions outwith the Donovan recommendations.

“Those are more immediate interventions. Some examples across Fife include Inverkeithing to Thornton, where five sets of clamp lock points have been renewed, and Inverkeithing to Ladybank, where remote condition monitoring has been installed on clamp lock points at 10 locations.

“Class 158 trains and engine radiator failures are being addressed, and the clutches on the trains are also being looked at. Those are all matters that have contributed to the poor performance in that area.

“As I said to Annabelle Ewing, we take those matters very seriously and continue to engage with the operators.”