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Customer forums

Our customer forums give regular train users the chance to ask ScotRail's senior management team questions, as well as voice their concerns and make suggestions.

Details of the next forum will be posted here early in 2014.

Our previous forums

Dumbarton Customer Forum

NOTE OF SCOTRAIL’S CUSTOMER FORUM HELD AT THE ABBOTSFORD HOTEL DUMBARTON FROM 1830 ON WEDNESDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2013

Present :
Robert Samson, Passenger Focus Scottish Link Manager
21 members of the public
Steve Montgomery, ScotRail Managing Director
Kenny Docherty, ScotRail Engineering Director
Jerry Farquharson, ScotRail Business Planning Director
other ScotRail managers

INTRODUCTION
Welcoming everyone, Robert Samson explained that his role was to provide independent chairmanship. Steve Montgomery said that these forums gave ScotRail a valuable way of learning about current issues that they would attempt to answer on the night or else take away for further consideration. Transport Scotland had now issued invitations to tender for the both the Caledonian Sleeper and the ScotRail franchises which would replace the current combined one after March 2015.

Q1 (BM) : why not have one large map of the Scottish rail network for the Commonwealth Games?
A1 : we shall ensure that maps feature in our discussions with CWG2014 and Visit.Scotland.

Q2 (AM) : can the App show intermediate calling points?
A2 : if you hit live trains, you should see the stops that a train is booked to make

Q3 (HD) : why don't drivers announce the cause of delays?
A3 : drivers have been briefed on making announcements during disruption without impacting on their safety duties. They have been issued with a card which gives them scripts for a number of different situations.

Q4 (SC) : why can't customer information screens explain delays?
A4 : we are doing a lot of work to prevent late-running trains from disappearing off screens. The way that delays clock up is due to the reporting systems. We may not yet know when a delay is likely to be resolved, but that does not prevent us from saying what the cause is in order that people may have some idea of when they are getting home. 

Q5 (PC) : when the alarm went off at Dumbarton Central, why couldn't staff tell us whether we had to leave the station?
A5 : this has been investigated and concluded. No member of staff was present. The alarm was an intruder alarm.

Q6 (SS) : when smartcard ticketing arrives, will it include the Subway?
A6 : SPT are now trialling their smartcard, and we are fitting validators to stations without gatelines. Customers will appreciate the much greater durability of smartcards compared with paper seasons, and once we have resolved some problems with software we hope to roll out a joint product early in the New Year. 

Q7 (RH) : how do you recycle your waste?
A7 : we are already segregating waste into separate contaminated and recycled categories in advance of the new law commencing in January.

Q8 (FMcN) : why is there often no ticket examiner on evening trains back to Bowling?
A8 : our ticket-examiner complement covers all trains operated over these routes. However there are occasions when we have shortages due to disruption and late call-offs, and we have also had recent high levels of long-term sickness so have recruited an additional 8 ticket examiners to ensure we have robust coverage

Q9 (LMcL) : because there may be no ticket examiner on the first leg of a journey, sometimes there is no opportunity to buy a ticket until after the start of the evening peak, what is your policy and why do Customer Relations evidently not understand the issue?
A9 : we instruct our staff to use their discretion in order that commonsense may prevail, and monitor for accuracy our contractor's replies to customers.

Q10 (JM) : what can be done about the regular late running of the 1807 from Glasgow Central Low Level, resulting in a missed connection for Dumbarton?
A10 : such late running is as a result of increased congestion on the West Coast Main Line, and will be eased when Whifflet electrification allows us to recast the timetable later in 2014.

Q11 (AM) : has the time come to reintroduce weekday through running between the Argyle Line and Dumbarton?
A11 : this possibility will be worth looking at in the context of Transport Scotland's timetable specification for the next franchise.

Q12 (MP) : can you reinstate the provision of an adequate towel and a second piece of shortbread in the Standard Class Sleeper?
A12 : we cut back on Sleeper breakfasts due to the enormous waste, but can reinstate the second shortbread. It had proved cheaper to throw away the towel than to launder it, and the material now used is recyclable.

Q13 (SMcN) : what can refranchising do to improve the West Highland experience of noisy carriages and views blocked by trees?
A13 : Transport Scotland's invitation to tender specifies better comfort on scenic routes. We have supported the Friends of the West Highland Lines on promoting lineside tree-clearance, and the next franchisee will be required to work with Network Rail and landowners.

Q14 (VH) : can anything be done to improve the availability of bargain berths?
A14 : users have become wise to the release of bargain berths, which as a result are nowadays more quickly snapped up.

Q15 (JM) : why does late running persistently affect departures after 0800 from Dumbarton to Glasgow?
A15 : the additional morning peak express from Helensburgh delays other trains over the single track to Craigendoran, and we are therefore in discussion with Transport Scotland about possibly starting it from Dumbarton Central.
 
Q16 (EG) : performance this year has been the worst in 31 years, your website is often not up to date and the 0857 ex-Dumbarton East regularly disappears off the screens, why is there no explanation?
A16 : we acknowledge that overall performance during 2013 fell away from the continuous high achievement of recent years, and think that we now know the reasons. We accept that customers are entitled to know why their individual train is late.

Q17 (HD) : why is the 0644 Partick-Dumbarton consistently late?
A17 : please see above comment at A10.

Q18 (HD) : is there a continuing issue with Class 334 couplers?
A18 : we have made a lot of modifications to improve the couplers over the years, and try to minimise the need to couple and uncouple these trains. We are also considering replacement with Delnar couplers, but these are expensive and would reduce interoperability with other types of train.

Q19 (HD) : what can be done about flooding at Dalmuir?
A19 : in recent years the situation has improved, but on the last occasion the rain was so heavy that the pumps were simply overwhelmed.

Q20 (HD) : why is Zonecard renewal at Partick on Sundays made difficult by staff being on other duties or having no change?
A20 : we have taken on board a need to rebrief staff at Partick about Zonecard renewals.
 
Q21 (HD) : can the 0850 from Crossmyloof to Glasgow Central have more carriages?
A21 : we are considering reduction of another service from 6 cars so that this one may become 4 cars.

Q22 (SS) :  can you provide tables and tackle the squeaking noise on Class 334s?
A22 : we have no plans to fit tables, but recognise that there is a bogie-underframe issue causing the squeaking on which we have deployed technical riders to improve our understanding.

Q23 (RH) : can I buy two SPT concessions at Dumbarton rather than have to rebook at Partick?
A23 : flat fares apply to journeys up to ten miles, and for journeys longer than that customers should pay half-fare.

Q24 (SS) : why does Partick broadcast a repeat message about an earlier delayed train?
A24 : this is a fault that we shall address. A major upgrade of customer information in the North Clyde area is being pursued.

Q25 (AM) : when buses have to replace trains through Stirling, wouldn't it be sensible to bus Glasgow-Perth travellers from Dundee instead of from Falkirk Grahamston?
A25 : we shall make that point to our contractor, and can consider for possible incorporation into our engineering plan.

Q26 (FMcN) : why don't you ask Network Rail to these events?
A26 : customers tell us that their contract is with ScotRail so they expect us to sort out Network Rail issues on their behalf.

Q27 (LMcL) : with no canopies on the platforms Partick has an unfinished look, please can we at least have a screen on the concourse?
A27 : a plan for canopies fell victim to a funding gap, but we are relocating the screen to make it more visible.

Q28 (HD) : why is the Partick-Edinburgh direct route not the cheapest fare?
A28 : working with Transport Scotland we have removed many fares anomalies, and can confirm that the direct fare is the cheapest one on ScotRail.

Q29 (SS) : why did Paisley Canal lose its pre-Christmas Sunday service?
A29 : some of the pre-Christmas services on routes not normally provided with Sunday trains were lightly-used, so Transport Scotland decided that it would be better value for money to introduce an all-year Sunday service on the Glasgow Central-Edinburgh Shotts line, which has proved successful. 

CONCLUSION
Thanking everyone for their attendance, Steve Montgomery expressed gratitude that people had taken the trouble to express views that would be useful for ScotRail in taking ideas forward for the next franchise. Robert Samson reminded everyone that where an issue remained unresolved between a customer and a train operator, it could be referred to Passenger Focus whose passenger helpline was open 0800-2000 Monday – Friday and 0800-1600 weekends, telephone: 0300 123 2350, fax: 0845 8501392 Email: advice@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to: Passenger Focus FREEPOST (RRRE-ETTC-LEET) PO BOX 4257 Manchester M60 3AR.

Arbroath Customer Forum

NOTE OF SCOTRAIL’S CUSTOMER FORUM HELD AT THE ROYAL BRITISH LEGION ARBROATH FROM 1800 ON WEDNESDAY 15 MAY 2013

Present :

  • Robert Samson, Passenger Focus Scottish Link Manager
  • 18 members of the public, including representatives of Angus Council
  • Steve Montgomery, ScotRail Managing Director
  • Jacqueline Dey, ScotRail Operations and Safety Director
  • Jerry Farquharson, ScotRail Business Planning Director
  • other ScotRail managers

INTRODUCTION

Welcoming everyone, Robert Samson explained that his role was to provide independent chairmanship. Steve Montgomery said that these forums gave ScotRail a valuable way of learning about current issues that they would attempt to answer on the night or else take away for further consideration. Transport Scotland had now issued invitations to tender for the new Caledonian Sleeper franchise, and were also taking forward arrangements for refranchising of ScotRail daytime trains after the conclusion of the current combined franchise in March 2015.

Q1 (AH) : can ticket vending machines issue PlusBus tickets?
A1 : regrettably the cost of the necessary software alteration could not be justified.

Q2 (CW) : is smoking of e-cigarettes accepted on trains?
A2 : we have briefed our staff that smoking of e-cigarettes is not acceptable on our trains.

Q3 (JA) : can you run longer trains on busy Express services?
A3 : we have to balance the availability of rolling-stock against growing demand across our network. Some services are already comprised of more than one set, and it will be for bidders for the next franchise to consider how best to accommodate projected further growth.

Q4 (AK) : when are you going to convert Arbroath's long-disused goods yard into much-needed station car-parking?
A4 : the latest announcement on station investment by Transport Scotland includes a number of carpark upgrades. Parking capacity is one of the main constraints on growing our business, but funding opportunities are limited because we are not permitted to introduce new charges. Arbroath is a strategic freight site, and we shall now discuss the way forward in partnership with Transport Scotland, Tactran and Angus Council.

Q5 (GB) : please can we have water and power in the storage accommodation used by Arbroath Abbey Timethemes?
A5 : we shall remind the Railway Heritage Trust of your ongoing interest.

Q6 (AP) : can the on-train passenger information announce the evening connection at Arbroath for Broughty Ferry, and why is this connection option not shown in Journey Planner?
A6 : our automated announcements are generic for connectional opportunities that recur throughout the day, whereas changing at Arbroath for Broughty Ferry arises only once. We shall remind conductors to make a manual announcement, and shall also investigate why this journey-opportunity does not appear in Journey planner.

Q7 (AP) : why is my Broughty Ferry-Dyce fare unaffected by recent action to prevent the need for split ticketing?
A7 : removal of fares anomalies concentrated on same ticket types, and it may still be cheaper to rebook when mixing and matching different types.

Q8 (AP and AH) : might the 0625 Montrose-Inverness be started back at Dundee for the benefit of commuters needing an early start in Aberdeen?
A8 : although the rolling-stock normally comes from there as an empty train, starting the advertised working at Montrose allows us to retain flexibility for when there is disruption. We shall consider whether there could be an opportunity for the future.

Q9 (CS) : why does the heating not work on early morning trains?
A9 : we have invested in improved facilities at our depots to prevent cold starts, which therefore should not be happening. Customer feedback would be appreciated on when and where people encounter this experience.

Q10 (CS) : I travel at peak times but my journey has not benefited from any investment funded by fares increases, why do I have to pay more than off-peak travellers when my early-morning train sometimes isn't even heated?
A10 : the world over it is the case that peak-hour travellers have to pay more due to the cost of providing the additional capacity needed at those times and as an incentive to shift demand among those who can travel at quieter times.  Season tickets give daily commuters travel on seven days for the price of four.

Q11 (CS) : why does your fares structure sometimes make it cheaper to board at a bigger station that is further down the line from one's destination?
A11 : we have a two-tier structure of Advance fares giving greater discounts on flows where demand is highest.

Q12 (BM) : can we have ten-journey tickets for journeys to Aberdeen?
A12 : such tickets elsewhere have been prone to abuse among daily commuters who buy them in preference to seasons in the hope of evading inspection.

Q13 (LM) : but you have flexipasses on the Edinburgh-Glasgow route?
A13 : there we have automatic ticket gates at both ends and ticket vending machines at all stations. We have also invested in readers for the trialling of smartcards.

Q14 (BM) : can't you speed up the introduction of smartcards?
A14 : we are progressing our trial, but have to deliver a product that is compliant with industry standards.

Q15 (SM) : how long do passengers have to claim reserved seats?
A15 : customers who reserve from a station should take their seat there. As well as people who reserve so as to take account of a cheaper fare from a station further up the line, we also have an issue with customers who choose not to travel on the train for which they have booked because reservations are free, and encourage our conductors to remove labels on any unclaimed seats when making a ticket check once or twice during each journey.

Q16 (SM) : can commuters board the Sleeper?
A16 : only the Fort William and Inverness Sleepers are advertised as daytime services, but in the event of disruption we can make the Aberdeen-bound Sleeper available to commuters.

Q17 (SM) : can you increase the numbers of trains calling at Golf Street?
A17 : we have always to strike a balance between end-to-end journey-times and connectivity at intermediate places, and Tactran accept that Golf Street is too close to Carnoustie to justify more calls.

Q18 (SM) : can there be more calls at Carnoustie?
A18 : a study for Tactran has recommended an additional local service for Carnoustie, Monifieth and Broughty Ferry which may become affordable at some future stage. Meanwhile in 2011 we introduced additional calls at Broughty Ferry, 2012 saw more calls at Carnoustie particularly in the evening and for December 2013 we are proposing an additional peak-hour call each way at Monifieth.

Q19 (SM) : on my season could I instead travel on some days the same distance in the opposite direction?
A19 : seasons are for specified journeys, and if we allowed you to travel in the opposite direction we would be doubling the eligible distance.

Q20 (RF) : so as to make clear Eurostar's responsibilities in the event of disruption, can you adopt Eurostar CIB as a ticketing destination as FGW do?
A20 : we shall give consideration to this suggestion

Q21 (RF) : when there is a problem about Eurostar connecting into the Sleeper, could there be guidance as to whom one should contact?
A21 : again we shall take this away for our consideration.

Q22 (RF) : Eurostar use a 'Hop on Next Train' stamp to denote passengers that have been delayed. Can we not introduce something similar?
A22 : see previous two answers

Q23 (RF) : can we not show interconnecting trains with Eurostar on our website, and include links to and from the Eurostar website?
A23 : as above.

Q24 (RF) : can you not undertake joint publicity and through ticketing with Eurostar?
A24 : as above.

Q25 (MG) : could we have later last trains than at present from Glasgow and Edinburgh going beyond Dundee?
A25 : the potential revenue of projecting trains beyond Dundee would have to be offset against the cost of taking the train back to a depot for overnight stabling. It would also have to be balanced against the benefit of earlier services in the morning offering new long-distance connectional opportunities.

Q26 (AH) : please could you fill the 0742-0858 gap in departures from Arbroath for Aberdeen?
A26 : we currently have no resources to do so, but can look at opportunities to fill this gap, bearing in mind that in the morning peak resources have to be focused on providing arrivals at the main cities before 0900.

Q27 (CW) : why at Glasgow Central is the booked customer assistance sometimes not forthcoming?
A27 : Network Rail management at Glasgow Central advise that once they have allocated jobs to their customer service staff it is very difficult to change priorities as they have limited resources per shift. Their staff have to also deal with passengers who have not booked in advance and those who book at short notice. They will always try and accommodate those whose services have been delayed or disrupted, but cannot always guarantee being assisted within the normal five minutes and customers may have to wait a little longer.

Q28 (AH) : are there any plans to provide more seating capacity for First Class passengers?
A28 : again we have to strike a balance, and whereas First Class compartments can be busy on peak-hour services, off-peak they often run virtually empty.

CONCLUSION

Thanking everyone for their attendance, Steve Montgomery expressed gratitude that people had taken the trouble to express views that would be useful for ScotRail in taking ideas forward towards the preparation of their bid for the next franchise. Robert Samson reminded everyone that where an issue remained unresolved between a customer and a train operator, it could be referred to Passenger Focus whose passenger helpline was open 0800-2000 Monday – Friday and 0800-1600 weekends, telephone: 0300 123 2350, fax: 0845 8501392 Email: advice@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to:

RTEH-XAGE-BYKZ
Passenger Focus
PO Box 5594
Southend On Sea
SS1 9PZ

John Yellowlees
ScotRail External Relations Manager 
tel : 0141-335 4787 or 07771-831252
29 May 2013

copies: those present + registered

Kilwinning Customer Forum

 NOTE OF SCOTRAIL’S CUSTOMER FORUM HELD AT TAYLOR’S HOTEL KILWINNING FROM 1830 ON WEDNESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2012

Present :
Robert Samson, Passenger Focus Scottish Link Manager
30 members of the public, including representatives of North Ayrshire Council
Steve Montgomery, ScotRail Managing Director
Jacqueline Taggart, ScotRail Customer Services Director
Angus Tough, ScotRail Head of Stations
other ScotRail managers

INTRODUCTION
Welcoming everyone, Robert Samson explained that his role was to provide independent chairmanship. Steve Montgomery said that these forums gave ScotRail a valuable way of learning about current issues that they would attempt to answer on the night or else take away for further consideration.

Q1 (FMaca): why will my Irvine-Port Glasgow journey take longer in the new timetable?
A1 : our new timetable seeks to optimise the benefit of additional capacity for the main flows towards Glasgow and Paisley. Regrettably there may be a number of minor ones that don't work so well, but the resultant uptake is anticipated at an additional half-million extra journeys each year. We expect that demand will respread so as to reduce overcrowding, and shall be monitoring performance through actual sales.

Q2 (HA): why is Ayr-Paisley to be reduced to hourly in the offpeak?
A2 : when seeking to capture demand while minimising overcrowding there are always winners and losers, but ScotRail meet the Regional Transport Partnerships every six months at a timetabling conference so any representations should be made to SPT.

Q3 (AMcG): what is your policy on treating individuals affected by corrections to fares anomalies?
A3 : we corrected the Troon-Stirling anomaly as soon as we became aware of it, and have not sought any retrospective payment. Passenger Focus will now press Transport Scotland for their view on how we should take account of any hardship in your case.

Q4 (AW): why are you continuing to provide just one train an hour from Kilwinning to Saltcoats in the morning peak?
A4 : in the peaks we have to concentrate our resources in the main direction of flow, but we can review the 0751/0847 gap in departures from Kilwinning towards Ardrossan when taking account of other issues raised at this forum and elsewhere.

Q5 (MM): why does the new timetable reduce the number of trains from Glasgow to Dalry from 4 to just 1 between 1715 and 1800?
A5 : there will still be 4 trains in the hour from 1704, and we can take on board your point in the review that we shall be conducting of how the new timetable performs.

Q6 (IM): in the evenings why do I often find the toilets and waiting room closed at Kilwinning?
A6 : the waiting room should be open and the key to the toilet available from the booking office except when the staff are undertaking other duties. We shall check whether there is any reason why this might not always be so. 

Q7 (IM): at Stranraer why does the train exacerbate the station's remoteness by stopping at the buffer-end?
A7 : we shall see if there is a signalling or other issue.

Q8 (JP): why don't you survey your customers to find out what they want?
A8 : we are required to survey each route every month, and Passenger Focus carries out its National Passenger Survey twice a year.

Q9 (JP): why do your services finish early on Christmas and New Year Eves, then not run at all on the following day?
A9 : this has been the practice for many years, and the light loadings for those services that we do provide on 2 January confirm that there would be insufficient demand for trains on Christmas and New Year's Days.

Q10 (LT): what can be done about toilet waste on the track at Glasgow Central's Platform 10?
A10 : modern trains carry retention tanks, so it is only the older Class 156 diesels that still have gravity discharge onto the tracks. We work with Network Rail to keep them clear of waste, and have fitted GPS kit to prevent toilets from being flushed at stations.

Q11 (RC): why not revert to stopping all trains at Paisley, the second most important place on the Ayrshire routes?
A11 : we are seeking an optimal combination of best journey times and spreading of passenger loadings, and shall monitor the new timetable’s performance to see if any change is needed - but our starting-point has to be that there are not massive numbers travelling off-peak between Ayr and Paisley.

Q12 (JD): why has Stevenston no screen and no Ticket Vending Machine, the latter resulting in my having to queue at Glasgow Central?
A12 : ducts needed to carry power to the eastbound platform have collapsed, and we are pressing Network Rail for a sensible price on their replacement. Our obligation to deliver screens at busier stations has already been delivered, but we shall continue to seek external funding for other locations including Stevenston. 

Q13 (JD) : why do the level crossing barriers sometimes stay down for a second train at Stevenston, resulting in road traffic including on occasion an ambulance having to wait up to 45 minutes?
A13 : barriers automatically stay down when a second train is due, and a freight train can take longer to pass than a passenger one. However they should not be down this long and we shall pursue with Network Rail. (Note: advice received from Network Rail is as follows. Stevenston LC is usually closed when trains are leaving Kilwinning over the Down so that we can provide trains with a clear headway and likewise on the Up Line. Otherwise trains would get slowed and lose time, with resultant delay on the network.  The way the signalling works hasn't changed recently, and with the frequency of trains (and speed of some services such as freight) it may seem to users that the crossing is down for quite a long time.)

Q14 (CC): the new timetable is a big advance, but what are your contingency plans in the event of a cancellation?
A14 : contingencies are being developed, and will depend on the scale of the incident, with taxis often provided at night through the station Help Points  but alternative transport difficult to procure in the peaks. It’s a matter of striking the right balance - and inserting additional calls in lieu of an individual cancellation has to be done with care since they can impede service recovery.

Q15 (RW) : traffic at Prestwick Airport is less than it used to be, so why not switch calls from there to Paisley?
A15 : as explained above, we shall keep under review the situation on Paisley calls. Business at Prestwick Airport has been subject to fluctuation over the years.

Q16 (RW): when there are engineering works affecting Ayr on Sundays, can you always do as sometimes happens and provide an alternative service via Kilmarnock?
A16 : we agree the merit of consistency, and shall consider the desirability of running via Kilmarnock whenever there are Sunday engineering works on the Glasgow-Ayr line

Q17 (GE): is the Sleeper fleet still going to be improved?
A17 : Transport Scotland have announced that Sleepers are to be operated by a separate franchise. The £100M jointly committed a year ago by the Westminster and Holyrood administrations remains available, and decisions on its best use will be reached with the holder of the new franchise.

Q18 (GE) : when will you start running the Fort William Sleeper via Queen Street Low Level?
A18 : we are continuing to consider the possibilities of operating the West Highland Sleeper via Queen Street Low level - and still have some issues to resolve prior to being able to finalise this option. We are still hopeful of being able to progress this in the future.

Q19 (GE): can you make the Nith Valley even-interval two-hourly and reinstate the last service as a through train to Carlisle?
A19 : It is not possible to create an even interval service on this route due to other constraints including other (freight) services and capacity on the route. There are also constraints as to when the route is open to traffic. The last train used to be the 2212 from Glasgow - and still is on a Saturday. The service is based on levels of demand and the current service adequately reflects the current demands to travel, which includes the later service at 2312 (SX) between Glasgow and Dumfries. The 2112 ex Glasgow (SX) provides for the late night opportunity to travel between Dumfries and Carlisle (departing at 2300).  We continue to keep under review.

Q20 (GE): can Annan have a Ticket Vending Machine?
A20 : there is no justification for such investment since conductors should be able to get through the train before its next stop at Gretna Green or Dumfries.

Q21 (TL): what can be done to stop people putting their feet on train seats?
A21 : passengers putting their feet on train seats – or leaving chewing gum on them – are costing ScotRail almost £100,000 a year in Government penalties, and we had to fix more than 350 seats in August alone, including nearly 100 damaged by discarded chewing gum. During our recent ‘Neat Seats’ campaign, information stands featuring giveaways including ‘gum bins’ visited stations including Glasgow Central and Kilwinning.

Q22 (IR): can we have the occasional fast train from Largs to Glasgow?
A22 : no, because having off-pattern trains would disturb intermediate flows and it would be very difficult to accommodate any overtaking when a fast train caught up with the one in front.

Q23 (RCS) : in the light of the Paisley Canal low-cost electrification could you promote electrifying the second track from Ardrossan towards Largs so as to allow a half-hourly passenger train and electric freight?
A23 : low-cost measures have cut the cost of electrifying the Paisley Canal line from £28M to £10.6M. We shall pursue with Network Rail whether it might be possible to pursue such an approach for the Largs line. 

Q24 (SM): what can be done to curb drunkenness on late-night trains to Ayrshire?
A24 : we have introduced a ban on the visible carrying and consumption of alcohol on our trains after 2100 and shall ensure the inclusion of late-night trains to Ayrshire in campaigns against alcohol-related antisocial behaviour

Q25 (PMcL): what can be done to improve interplatform accessibility at Kilwinning?
A25 : Kilwinning has already benefited from the installation of a variable-height counter at the booking office, and we shall ascertain the station’s position in the Access for All programme which is being led by Transport Scotland on behalf of the Department for Transport.

CONCLUSION
Thanking everyone for their attendance, Steve Montgomery expressed gratitude that so many people had taken the trouble to express views that would be useful for ScotRail in taking ideas forward towards the preparation of their bid for the next franchise. Robert Samson reminded everyone that where an issue remained unresolved between a customer and a train operator, it could be referred to Passenger Focus whose passenger helpline was open 0800-2000 Monday – Friday and 0800-1600 weekends, telephone: 0300 123 2350, fax: 0845 8501392 Email: advice@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to: Passenger Focus FREEPOST (RRRE-ETTC-LEET) PO BOX 4257 Manchester M60 3AR.

Dalgety Bay Customer Forum

Present :

Robert Samson, Passenger Focus Scottish link manager
21 members of the public, including representatives of Fife Council
Steve Montgomery, ScotRail Managing Director
Jerry Farquharson, ScotRail Business Planning Director
Sean Duffy, ScotRail Commercial Director
other ScotRail managers

INTRODUCTION

Welcoming everyone, Robert Samson explained that his role was to provide independent chairmanship. Steve Montgomery said that these forums gave ScotRail a valuable way of learning about current issues that they would attempt to answer on the night or else take away for further consideration.

Q1 (DD) : what can be done to simplify the on-train announcements on the Fife Circle?
A1 : from December we shall be breaking the Circle so that all trains will be shown as starting and terminating at Glenrothes with Thornton.

Q2 (MR) : can there please be consistency about the impact of the evening-peak restriction on the availability of the SPT concession for journeys through Glasgow?
A2 : The restriction is on boarding between 1630 and 1800 so if a customer is boarding their onward service between these times a concessionary fare is not valid. 

Q3 (JAL) : when will the two trains at present cannot stop at Leuchars due to signalling constraints be able to do so?
A3 : The issue for these trains is the pathing of freight trains, bearing in mind also the restriction on flexibility imposed by the weight limit on the Tay Bridge. We shall continue to keep the situation under review with Transport Scotland.

Q4 (JAL) : if Fife Council were to proceed with the recent suggestion of parking charges at station car-parks on their ownership, might rail travellers be able to enjoy a refund?
A4 : we do not own the car-parks, but in the event of the proposal being revived would hope to be involved by Fife Council in any consultation.

Q5 (SB) : is the equipment now being installed at Dalgety Bay for administering the proposed parking charge?
A5 : no, it’s for charging of electric vehicles.

Q6 (DS) : when there is disruption, could rail tickets be accepted on buses?
A6 : we are trialling interavailability with First in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and while mindful of the Competition Commission’s interest would intend to role out the practice elsewhere if it proves successful. Disruption is a key focus for us in the light of our National Passenger Survey scores, and we are encouraging customers to sign up for JourneyAlert and Apps, giving them as many means as possible of learning about disruption.

Q7 (JM) : sometimes when a train from Glasgow arrives late into Haymarket, the train for Fife can be seen just pulling away, could there be better coordination?
A7 : In the peak periods we must keep everything on the move as best we can because then the network is running at capacity. At other times connections are as follows (all are general - and each specific connections should be checked as some trains are slightly off pattern): during the day the xx:00 from Glasgow QS connects into  xx:52 Fife Outer Circle, the xx:15 from Glasgow connects into xx:11/12 Kirkcaldy / Glenrothes, the xx:30 from Glasgow QS connects into  xx:23 Cowdenbeath and the xx:45 from Glasgow connects into xx:42/43/44 Fife Inner Circle, while in the evenings the xx:00 from Glasgow QS connects into  xx:54 Cowdenbeath & Glenrothes and the train that follows to Kirkcaldy.

Q8 (DK) : shouldn't Fife have a traincrew and maintenance depot to improve reliability?
A8 : we are mindful of the benefits for reliability particularly at start of service, but an examination of making use of the old Thornton freight depot found that the costs did not stack up due to the need to transfer traincrew by taxi to and from Glenrothes with Thornton Station. We have successfully opened traincrew depots at other locations including Dumfries, Helensburgh and Bathgate, and should certainly want to remain alive to the potential in Fife.

Q9 (LL) : could you revive the double-stop procedure to allow longer trains?
A9 : having increased capacity over the years, we now are about at the limit. The old double-stop procedure would no longer be acceptable as a means of accommodating trains longer than the platforms, but a more contemporary solution would be Selective Door Opening using the computer controls fitted on modern trains.

Q10 (BE) : for seniors the bus is free, but the train in the peaks can be very busy, will you invest to make it more attractive for us to use rail?
A10 : we make every effort to encourage people to travel off-peak, having offered a first-ever off-peak season during recent roadworks that however achieved only 31 sales. Even if the infrastructure could accommodate them, there are few trains available for hire, and the locomotive-hauled train that brings additional capacity to Fife is not liked by everyone.

Q11 (HR) : what can be done to make the Club 55 peak restriction fairer, e.g. for passengers wanting to change into morning trains for the West Highlands?
A11 : We will review the Club 55 time restrictions after the current run ends, however morning peak services from Airdrie into Glasgow can be heavily loaded so that it may not be appropriate to allow discounted promotional fares to travel.

Q12 (SL) : the September timetable change restored a pre-0900 arrival from Kinghorn into Edinburgh, now is there any plan to reinstate the second train lost in December 2011? 
A12 : we monitor the situation closely so are aware of recent short-formings, but realistically it is unlikely that the second train will return because we are having to deal with loss of a train in North Fife that was not of our making. However we are hoping to improve performance by having a train on standby at Perth from December, ready to stand in for any set that fails and so maintain booked train-lengths. Our output would also be assisted if there were any maintenance facilities on Tayside, and we are helping Transport Scotland to reach a view on such requirements over the next twenty years. Evenings are more spread out, and passenger counts reveal some empty seats even in trains that on an adjoining carriage may be full and standing.

Q13 (JL) : could you work more closely with local tourist associations on production of literature for example for passengers arriving at Inverkeithing off coach links from cruise liners at Rosyth?
A13 : We have written to all the local authorities urging them to consult us on their tourism and enterprise strategies, and should be delighted to work with the local tourism associations on destination marketing in Fife.
 
Q14 (GY) : can fares be restructured to encourage people to board at their local stations instead of driving to Inverkeithing?
A14 : distance-based fares were superseded in the 1990s by the complicated structure that we have inherited, where for historical reasons those in the west of Scotland can be cheaper than elsewhere but we can set only the ones in the off-peak, when we are trying to give more value through Advance fares. 

Q15 (JR) : can the 1840 Edinburgh-Perth call at local stations so as to fill a post-peak gap?
A15 : Unfortunately this is not an easy option due to pathing and crew issues. There is no immediately available unit to provide an additional service - which would also require additional crews, so any requirement to prolong the half-hourly frequency beyond the evening peak could be a matter for Transport Scotland’s specification of the next franchise

Q16 (SL) : how should you be looking after customers when trains fail to stop at Kinghorn?
A16 : we should be paying for their taxis home from Kirkcaldy, which is staffed throughout hours of service. One of the recent occasions was caused by human error, which has been taken up with the driver in question, while the other was during disruption when we had announced  that so as to catch up on its schedule the train would not be stopping - but maybe some customers had inadvertently not heard.

Q17 (SL) : what feedback have you had on the alcohol ban?
A17 : as the first train company to introduce such a provision, we had not known how it would be received. While the perception may be about people drinking on trains, the reality is that the concern is about people who board already drunk, making much noise and sometimes incapable of walking, taking it out on our staff for not helping them. Many more people have been refused travel than arrested for drinking, and we have assured customers that we are not going to search their bags.

Q18 (RS) : are you concerned that fares increases may be driving people off trains?
A18 : the current formula of RPI +1% in Scotland compares with +3% in England, and should be viewed against other price-increases such as the price of petrol.

Q19 (S?) : what lessons were learned from the extreme winter conditions of December 2010?
A19 : with hindsight we recognised that the situation could have been handled better, and have learned lessons reflected in a £2.5M investment last winter and this in modifying trains to improve performance during freezing temperatures.

Q20 (DD) : can you give better advice about trains that may be overcrowded?
A20 : we are making more widespread use of Customer Information Systems at stations to warn of trains that are having to be shortformed. At South Gyle, the screen faces the entrance so as to convey information to passengers as they arrive onto the platform, but updated train running information can now be announced to people already there using the recently-upgraded long-line public-address system.

Q21 (DK) : can we have a better spread of services particularly from Dunfermline on Sunday mornings?
A21 : we are challenging Network Rail’s requirement for single-line working over the Forth Bridge until 1600 each Sunday since advantage has not been taken of this opportunity for a long time, and would hope to see improvements over the next two years.

Q22 (DS) : can you reinstate the Aberdour-Dundee day return whose withdrawal has made it more expensive to board there than at Inverkeithing?
A22 : The day return for this journey was removed in 2006 in line with our fare simplification strategy where each journey has either open returns or day returns and not a combination of both.

CONCLUSION

Thanking everyone for their attendance, Steve Montgomery expressed gratitude that so many people had taken the trouble to express views that would be useful for ScotRail in taking ideas forward towards the preparation of their bid for the next franchise. Robert Samson reminded everyone that where an issue remained unresolved between a customer and a train operator, it could be referred to Passenger Focus whose passenger helpline was open 0800-2000 Monday – Friday and 0800-1600 weekends, telephone: 0300 123 2350, fax: 0845 8501392 Email: advice@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to: Passenger Focus FREEPOST (RRRE-ETTC-LEET) PO BOX 4257 Manchester M60 3AR.

Stonehaven Customer Forum

Present:

  • Robert Samson, Passenger Focus Scottish link manager
  • 25 members of the public, including Rab Dickson, Nestrans
  • Jerry Farquharson, ScotRail Business Planning Director
  • Sean Duffy, ScotRail Commercial Director
  • Jacqueline Taggart, ScotRail Customer Service Director
  • John Lone, ScotRail Head of Operations
  • Other ScotRail managers

INTRODUCTION

Welcoming everyone, Robert Samson explained that his role was to provide independent chairmanship. Apologising for the unavoidable absence of ScotRail Managing Director Steve Montgomery due to family circumstances, Jerry Farquharson said that these forums gave ScotRail a valuable way of learning about current issues that they would attempt to answer on the night or else take away for further consideration.

Q1 (DF): Why does it require a 28-page booklet to explain your fares policy?
A1: we have what we inherited from many years of fares evolution, and are doing our best to simplify the fares structure both during this franchise and in the run-up to the next one.

Q2 (RD): Why are your cheapest fares more expensive from smaller stations?
A2: our starting-point has been the demand for particular flows, but the future structure of our advance-purchase fares will form part of our fares strategy going forward.

Q3 (GC): When are you going to tackle the split-fare issue which results in passengers being told only the end-to-end fare when it can be cheaper to book en route?
A3: We inherited the present fares structure which contains many that are regulated by Transport Scotland. We are currently working with them to remove over one hundred anomalies, and are aware of reports from Passenger Focus to ministers urging simplification.

Q4 (PB): Why does your timetable not provide more opportunities for travel between intermediate stations, in the way that when improving the Edinburgh-Glasgow via Shotts line you decided to go for one fast train and one all-stations?
A4: We have to balance intermediate opportunities against end-to-end considerations of journey-times and line-occupancy, including through single-track sections. Our timetable is specified by Transport Scotland, but we can and do go to them with proposals where we see an opportunity, e.g. last December’s insertion of nine additional calls at Broughty Ferry, and are now talking in more detail with Tactran and Nestrans about possible recommendations on reviewing the calling-pattern as a whole between Dundee and Aberdeen. The alternative first considered for the Shotts line was of two alternating skip-stoppers, which however could not be made to work effectively.

Q5 (JT): Can Portlethen have an even-interval dedicated local service?
A5: We recognise that the calling-pattern at Portlethen compares poorly with that at other stations, but recall that when the station was first reopened in 1985 the even-interval service initially provided was poorly-used. However as explained in A4 we are now in active dialogue about reviewing present calls in long-distance services, and acknowledge that Network Rail’s Route Utilisation Strategy commended to Transport Scotland the merits of an Aberdeen-Dundee local service for the years ahead.

Q6 (SJ): Why do I have to waste time changing trains en route when travelling between Stonehaven and Glasgow?
A6: Transport Scotland dictate the overall service-pattern, requiring in the interests of end-to-end journey-times that for every time-extending additional call another should come out. However the afore-mentioned review will take account of the present calls at Stonehaven as well as at other stations between Dundee and Aberdeen.

Q7 (SA): Do Transport Scotland specify which trains call at Portlethen, or doesn't the timetabling expertise surely lie with you?
A7: Whereas in the last franchise the Strategic Rail Authority merely set a minimum number of calls, now their successor Transport Scotland agree the first and last calls, frequency and calling-pattern. However they are content for us to come up with options for future changes in recognition of changing customer demand, and we shall now be putting to them the recommendations from our dialogue with Tactran and Nestrans about the Dundee-Aberdeen calling-pattern. This is necessarily a slow process while they weigh up the wider implications, and the December 2008 recast that reduced Aberdeen-Edinburgh journey times, respaced Aberdeen-Dundee timings to give a half-hourly spread, incorporated Laurencekirk calls and gave an hourly service to Inverurie was two-and-a-half years in development (and there can also be other impediments such as the Freightliner and East Coast trains whose paths stand in the way of our extending the 1752 Inverurie-Aberdeen to Stonehaven). The subsequent introduction of additional calls at Broughty Ferry however showed the potential for trialling new opportunities, and Passenger Focus have suggested that to reduce the lead-time there might be a reversion in the next franchise to specifying a minimum level of service, allowing the operator greater commercial freedom to meet changing demands. 

Q8 (SS): Can we have a Ticket Vending Machine at Portlethen?
A8: We shall keep this suggestion under review, but such investment would require a large increase in footfall to justify the transmission and management costs.

Q9 (DR): Can we have an earlier train on a Sunday?
A9: We are in active discussion with Transport Scotland about improving Sunday services from Aberdeen to both Inverurie and Edinburgh, and are hopeful that we shall be able to do so if the necessary resources can be found.

Q10 (NW): Can you use more website more effectively to keep customers informed and obtain their views?
A10: Learning lessons from the severe winter of 2010, we have upgraded our website so that it is now more educational and informative in terms of travel opportunities and ticketing availability. The website is also now supported by other social media tools including a twitter feed, facebook and an app which have been developed working with focus groups. So we are improving, but there is some way to go before we reach our goal of ensuring that all the information that our customers might require can be found there.

Q11 (NW): In the past trains were faster, and can you bring back more comfortable locomotive-hauled rolling-stock?
A11: Trains may have been faster when now-closed routes such as Strathmore were available or calling-patters were different, e.g. the Edinburgh & Glasgow could take much less account of intermediate journeys in the 1970s when commuter towns along the route had yet to assume their present importance. Now we are committed to the present fleet until the end of the franchise and face issues of flexibility and affordability – a High Speed Train costs twice as much to lease and four times as much to operate as a modern Class 170, yet its acceleration is slower. 

Q12 (NW): How can you overcome the negative impact of ticket barriers?
A12: The recent introduction of ticket gates at further Glasgow stations was accompanied by a programme of educating customers, many of whom had previously been accustomed to a culture where they had not paid for their journey. In order to overcome the negatives, we have had to make people aware of the options for buying their tickets, and have also helped our staff to develop customer-handling skills.

Q13 (RD): What can be done to deal with overcrowding in association with special events?
A13: We monitor uptake of our provision, and are helped by the occurrence of many events at the weekends when more rolling-stock is available for strengthening our services – e.g. for the recent Scottish Cup Final between Hearts and Hibs at Hampden we were able to provide an additional eleven thousand seats from and to Edinburgh. From our experience we are able to make a judgment on what to provide and where, for example asking Network Rail to encroach on their overnight engineering allowance for the four weeks of the Edinburgh Festivals and providing extra services in the likelihood that concerts might overrun.

Q14 (RS): Can you fill the 0822-0934 gap in departures from Stonehaven for Aberdeen?
A14: Network Rail’s Route Utilisation Strategy identified this issue, and we are trying to address it.

Q15 (RS): Can there be better integration of road and rail at Aberdeen, with terminals at the rail and bus stations giving respectively bus and rail information?
A15: ScotRail already display posters at Aberdeen Station showing where to catch buses for various destinations in the Aberdeen area and beyond and indicating which stance they use.  We shall resume contact with Nestrans to seek their views on any possible improvement to rail information at the bus station. Other forms of integration include Plusbus which is now available online and includes season tickets, and the Smartcard that we are developing might be for Transport Scotland to roll out also onto bus services.

Q16 (RS): Can there be a later service from Aberdeen on Saturdays like there is on Fridays?
A16: We should like to run the 2332 Fridays Aberdeen-Perth also on Saturdays, but unfortunately are unable to gain access from Network Rail who require the line on Saturday nights for essential maintenance works.

Q17 (RS): When can we have more car-parking at Stonehaven?
A17: A Network Rail steering group has been identifying scope for additional parking at stations across Scotland. The most recent expansion at Stonehaven was on land in Aberdeenshire Council ownership, and unfortunately additional parking often fills up rapidly, sometimes with non-rail users.

Q18 (RS): Can we have more cycling provision on trains?
A18: A balance has to be struck between cycle-storage and other calls on space including wheelchair-users and luggage. The design of modern trains seeks to optimise such provision, and in association with local authorities we have also provided more cycle-lockers at our stations.

Q19 (RS): Why did I not receive a reply to my complaint?
A19: Our aim is that 99% of customer correspondence should receive a reply within seven days. We should be happy to follow up why this did not happen in your case.

Q20 (BD): What analysis is done and by whom into service-levels at a station like Portlethen?
A20: Along with Passenger Focus, we meet the Regional Transport Partnerships twice-yearly in a timetabling conference where we are regularly challenged as to future possibilities. RTPs such as Nestrans have a budget that can allow them to commission feasibility studies whose recommendations we are happy to consider before making any recommendation to Transport Scotland.  Passenger Focus see a risk that local connectivity tends to get lost in the priority given to end-to-end journey-times, and there needs to be greater capacity in order that both objectives may be met.

Q21 (IM): Do you support an Aberdeen Crossrail in principle?
A21: We have been involved over the years with a host of consultants developing ideas on an Aberdeen Crossrail, of which the hourly service to Inverurie that commenced in December 2008 is the first deliverable. The McNulty review has taken stock of the value for money of such service-development, and in working up for Transport Scotland the cost of improving the Aberdeen-Inverness route Network Rail are clear as to our view that there would be significant disadvantages to developing a station at Kintore on a single line. Network Rail are clear that our view is that to ensure we maximise the potential of any proposed new station at Kintore, the section of line should be doubled between the location of the new station and Inverurie (We would propose the optimum way to enable this would be to extend the existing loop line at Inverurie station to include the new station at Kintore - and , in effect, create a section of double track at this location).

Q22 (IM): When am I going to be able to order a ticket online without having to go to a station to collect it?
A22: We are keen to trial sending a barcode to a customer’s mobile. Meanwhile you can pick up a pre-ordered ticket from a vending machine.

Q23 (IH): Ehy does the new shelter at Stonehaven lack a heater?
A23: Because there is no door on that design of shelter.

Q24 (IH): What happened to the proposed escalator from Aberdeen Station to Union Street?
A24: Unfortunately none of us has any recollection of such a proposal

Q25 (RC): Why do commuters from Stonehaven to Aberdeen have to stand?
A25: A survey by Nestrans found that there was more standing on services coming into Aberdeen from the north and observed that people started to stand when no more than 70% of seats had been occupied. From December 2011 we were able to work the 0722 departure with a three-coach train instead of the previous two coaches.

Q26 (SS): Why are you photographed and can wait only twenty minutes in the short-stay drop-off at Aberdeen?
A26: We recognise the difficulty at College Street, and therefore shall shortly be relocating the short-stay area to adjoin the taxi rank, with notices to advise customers when this change is to take effect.

Q27 (JT): What future is there for the Sleeper service?
A27: In his autumn statement the Chancellor allocated £50M for Sleeper modernisation subject to the Scottish Government matching that sum. It therefore seems likely that a Sleeper service will continue beyond our present commitment, which is to the end of this franchise.

Q28 (JT): Can First Class be provided on scenic routes?
A28: Such provision has to take account of the overall customer mix on these services, which often are also lifeline routes and interwork with other routes in order to keep them cost-effective. The Class 156s found on the West Highland Lines have other merits, and when they come to be replaced there will be a cost associated with catching up on such issues as stepping distances from which their grandfather rights have so far kept us immune. 

Q29 (SA): Did you monitor the adequacy of strengthening arrangements for Rockness?
A29: We have monitored this years’ performance, and are not aware of any issues. Transport Scotland allowed us to destrengthen certain Central Belt services in order to release resources for trains running to and from Inverness.

Q30 (GC): With Scotland having the worst long-distance rolling-stock and the highest fares in Europe, what evidence is there that ScotRail is a listening organisation?
A30: The affordability issue on rolling-stock is for Government to determine, having regard to other calls on the public purse which also determine the subsidy level available to hold down fares. The Passenger Focus website contains the findings of a survey into passengers’ expectations of rolling-stock.

CONCLUSION

Thanking everyone for their attendance, Jerry Farquharson expressed gratitude that so many people had taken the trouble to express views that would be useful for ScotRail in taking ideas forward towards the preparation of their bid for the next franchise. Robert Samson reminded everyone that where an issue remained unresolved between a customer and a train operator, it could be referred to Passenger Focus whose passenger helpline was open 0800-2000 Monday – Friday and 0800-1600 weekends, telephone: 0300 123 2350, fax: 0845 8501392 Email: advice@passengerfocus.org.uk or write to: Passenger Focus FREEPOST (RRRE-ETTC-LEET) PO BOX 4257 Manchester M60 3AR.

Falkirk Customer Forum

Present

Robert Samson, Passenger Focus’s Scottish Link Manager in the chair        

15 members of the public

Steve Montgomery Managing Director, Jacqui Dey Operations and Safety Director, Jacqueline Taggart Customer Services Director, Jerry Farquharson Head of Planning and Development and other ScotRail representatives.

 

Introduction:  

Welcoming everyone to the forum, Robert Samson explained that his role as the Scottish Link Manager of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. The Forum helped Passenger Focus, the independent statutory watchdog body, to work with ScotRail and enabled both parties to hear what people had to say.  He thanked all for attending.

Introducing his team, Steve Montgomery stressed that the purpose of the evening was to hear views and suggestions, and if questions could not be answered immediately, every point would be followed up as necessary.  

Q1 (CJ) : can families be told that no children should occupy train seats while an adult is standing?

A1 : as with bags on seats, we should encourage customers to be more considerate and shall give thought to how we might best achieve this.

 

Q2 (JH) : you ran direct trains last summer from Falkirk to Oban, could you provide more such excursions?

A2 : we are considering running the Edinburgh-Oban direct trains again next summer. Our franchise does not permit us to run charters, for which there are other dedicated operators.

 

Q3 (JM): does Transport Scotland's consultation document indicate that your services are to be cut back?

A3 : the Rail2014 consultation poses important questions as to how we might secure efficiencies so as to make Scotland's railway more cost-effective. Passenger Focus and FirstGroup look forward to responding to the document, and hope that all other interested parties will do so.

 

Q4 (RP) : what can be done to relieve overcrowding on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow route?

A4 : all trains in the peaks have since the start of the franchise been booked to be formed of 6 carriages, and loadings have slightly eased since customers switched to the new Airdrie-Bathgate route which opened in December 2010. The Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme due for completion at the end of 2016 will deliver an additional two trains an hour running non-stop Queen Street-Haymarket. Trains also get busy at the time of special events, and we shall review our provision of additional carriages for the Edinburgh Festivals in the light of this summer's experience when Rugby World Cup matches occurred during the Festivals. We shall also give consideration to a suggestion that announcements on our customer information screens should say whether a train is 3 or 6 carriages once our Tyrell and CIS systems have been linked in the New Year. 

 

Q5 (JH) : how could you accommodate a station at Greenhill?

A5 : we have investigated options for new stations at Greenhill, Allandale and Abronhill, but Transport Scotland are not minded to support these because of the impact on journey times.

 

Q6 (JH) : why can't your Dunbar trains call at intermediate stations beyond Musselburgh?

A6 : we should like to serve more stations but cannot do so because of the pathing of other operators' services including freight on the busy East Coast Main Line.

 

Q7 (GE): since December 2009 the last train from Glasgow to stations beyond Dumfries on Mondays-Fridays is one hour earlier at 2103, please could we have our 2212 back so as to bring those nights into line with Saturdays?

A7 : we shall review the position.

 

Q8 (JS) : please can you localise your Sleeper advertising?

A8 : we are about to hold another advertising campaign, and shall consider how we might better tailor our messages to local audiences.

 

Q9 (JH) : can you improve connections at Cumbernauld for Motherwell?

A9  : we are constrained by the availability of slots at Motherwell, and a study into possible extension of the Motherwell-Cumbernauld route to Stirling found too much congestion. The Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme would ease the position from Greenhill northwards.

 

Q10 (GE) : could we again please have a South West Scotland Rover like the newly-republicised Central Scotland one?

A10 : we shall review the position, taking into account the change in our business profile following Stena’s relocation from Stranraer.

 

Q11 (NW) : what can be done to improve the cleanliness and ventilation of train toilets?

A11 : every toilet is cleaned before entry into service each day, and we have cleaners on hand at selected strategic locations. We have fitted air-fresheners which have had limited success, and shall continue to keep under review the ventilation particularly of the small non-DDA-compliant toilets.

 

Q12 (NW) : can the waiting room on the to-Glasgow platform at Falkirk High be left open longer?

A12 : the booking office and waiting rooms are due to be open until 2100 daily. We shall investigate with station staff whether there is any issue about keeping the waiting room on the to-Glasgow side open until that time.

 

Q13 (NW): can the 1821 West Highland train board and leave Queen Street more punctually?

A13 : Queen Street punctuality has been improved off-peak by stepping back Edinburgh-Glasgow services so that an arrival forms the next-but-one departure. However that option is unavailable in the peak hours due to insufficient number of platforms. We are not aware of any significant delays to the incoming trains forming the 1821 that cannot be readily made up en route, but can review boarding so as to ensure that customers may enter the rear set before the front one is attached.

 

Q14 (RP): what can be done to speed up service in the booking office at Falkirk High?

A14 : gateline staff should assist anyone who requests help on how to use the ticket vending machine. Due to their fraudulent use we are reluctant to expand the availability of flexipasses over a longer period until we can put them onto the Smartcard that is now under development.

 

Q15 (JH): can you improve the visibility of customer information systems?

A15 : the systems at Polmont and Falkirk High are due to be replaced during the next few months with more modern Light Emitting Diode units. At Hyndland which was also mentioned, the present set-up is only temporary pending installation of the new fully accessible station entrance.

 

Q16 (GE) : can you commend the Shettleston Station Library to other stations?

A16 : Michael Cochrane at Shettleston has deservedly been shortlisted for two awards, publicity for which has helped promote awareness of his achievement.

 

Q17 (PM) : can there be better coordination between ScotRail and buses run by FirstGroup?

A17 : competition legislation limits cooperation, and we are monitored to ensure for example that bus services are not reduced so as to put more passengers on our trains. Our timetables have to be planned up to a year in advance, whereas bus operators have much more flexibility to alter theirs. We work with all bus operators on products such as PlusBus, and local authorities promote coordination at stations - for example at Larbert the service to Forth Valley Royal Hospital which is free to holders of valid rail tickets.

 

Conclusion
Thanking everyone for contributing to the agenda for Passenger Focus’s future discussions with ScotRail, Robert Samson urged passengers to comment to train operators on instances of good or bad performance. If they were not satisfied with the response, they should take the matter up with Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel: 08453 022 022, email: info@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to Freepost RRRE-ETTC-LEET, PO Box 4257 Manchester M60 3AR.
 

Adding his thanks, Steve Montgomery said that ScotRail sought constant feedback and saw customer forums as usefully complementing other means of engagement including Meet the Manager sessions. Those issues for which it had not been possible to give a full answer would be pursued until every point had been resolved. A full record would sent to all participants and placed on the website, and any further queries for ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com

 

Greenock Customer Forum

NOTE OF THE SCOTRAIL CUSTOMER FORUM HELD AT THE GREENOCK HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS FROM 1830 ON TUESDAY 31 MAY 2011 

Present

Robert Samson, Passenger Focus’s Scottish Link Manager in the chair        

14 members of the public

Steve Montgomery Managing Director, Jacqui Dey Operations and Safety Director, Kenny Scott Engineering Director, Nick Hortin New Trains Director and other ScotRail representatives.

 

Introduction:  

Welcoming everyone to the forum, Robert Samson explained that his role as the Scottish Link Manager of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. The Forum helped Passenger Focus, the independent statutory watchdog body, to work with ScotRail and enabled both parties to hear what people had to say.  He thanked all for attending.

Introducing his team, Steve Montgomery stressed that the purpose of the evening was to hear views and suggestions, and if questions could not be answered immediately, every point would be followed up as necessary.

Q1 (MS) : Why doesn't the very helpful staff member at Cartsdyke know when the 0655 train has been cancelled?

A1 : The Tyrell system relieves staff members of the need to phone Control by putting train running information on the screen of their ticket machine, so we can only infer that the system may have been down on these occasions. We are considering the issue of blackberries or Apps to all frontline staff members. Overall service performance on the Inverclyde routes has improved, and will benefit further as the new Class 380s settle in and the old Class 314s are refurbished - but repairs to overhead line damage during the gales on 23 May continued into the following day, when we could not get buses due to the impact of the volcanic ash on the airlines.

 

Q2 (MC) : When trains are delayed, why is no announcement made as to the cause?

A2: We are working to improve communications, and expect staff to make an announcement if a delay extends more than a few minutes.

 

Q3 (MC) : Can the announcements at Inverclyde stations be made more audible?

A3 :  The Long Line Public Address and station speakers on the Inverclyde lines are in the process of being renewed by Network Rail.  The work is expected to be completed by the middle of July and once all of the equipment has been renewed at the stations they will start to receive automatic announcements for all train services between 06.30 and 23.00 with the volume of the announcements being reduced from 20.00. 

 

Q4 (JB) : Do you accept that ScotRail can boast about its 94% Public Performance Measure and still leave me having to explain to my employer why I'm late at least once a fortnight?

A4 : We acknowledge that it could be hard to explain why your particular train might keep on running late. The causes of delay split roughly 40:60 between the trains and the infrastructure, and we have invested heavily in the reliability of our fleet, including the Class 314s which we have kept running beyond original expectations and are now upgrading to improve their reliability.

 

Q5 (DC) : How many Inverclyde services will remain in the hands of the Class 314s?

A5 : Once the Class 380 fleet is in full use, we expect to retain three Inverclyde services in each direction in the hands of a Class 314, working a diagram in peak hours only.

 

Q6 (DC) : Why have your new Class 380s been delivered with design differences that cause them to perform less reliably than their sister designs down south?

A6 : The Class 380 is an updated variant on the ten year old basic Desiro design and contains evolutionary features supported by proven technology. A lot of the change has been driven by changes in safety requirements, with a new front-end design. Once we have been able to work through the issues posed during their introduction, we are confident that they will deliver better reliability than Inverclyde customers have previously experienced.

 

Q7 (DC) : Could the 2235 Glasgow-Wemyss Bay be retimed to run later for the benefit of theatre-goers?

A7 : We have put on later services elsewhere, and shall investigate whether that might be possible here.

 

Q8 (JB) : Do you have a breakdown to show the performance of the early-morning trains in particular?

A8 : Our overall timekeeping has risen from 83 to 91% in seven years, but our systems do allow us to highlight particular services and we recognise that there is a long way to go before we can deliver a service that satisfies all of our customers.

 

Q9 (TL) : What can be done to improve the stepping distance at Gourock?

A9 :. Gourock presents issues of both gauging and stepping distances due to the curved platforms. Within the requirements of health and safety guidelines we have already carried out works on critical parts of the platforms in advance of the new trains entering service. A project is currently well under way to rebuild the station. This project is due for completion by the end of 2011 and will renew the platform surfaces and carry out further works to improve the platform edges. 

 

Q10 (AH) : Can we have a more logical fares structure with singles that are much less than returns and multi-journey tickets for people who travel frequently but not every day?

A10 : Fares are no longer related directly to distance, and so as to address the risk of people travelling fraudulently by buying singles in the hope of evading payment in one direction single fares were many years ago made close to the price of a return. The fares structure now is a matter for Transport Scotland, who may be considering options for the next franchise. The flexipass fares that we have introduced elsewhere in the country also proved susceptible to fraud, and for the future we are hoping to develop a Smartcard from whose value is deducted the fare applicable to the time of travel.

 

Q11 (MC) : When will you enforce revenue collection on trains where ticket examiners are too intimated to collect fares from groups of kids?  

A11: We are committed to reducing ticketless travel and increasing revenue protection. Indeed, a  three-day exercise held in Greenock last November was a success in terms of our commitments to reduce ticketless travel and alleged fare evasion. 

 

Q12 (WW) : When will you take action against on-train staff for ordering me off the train when I refuse to pay the full fare because the booking office has been closed for cleaning duties?

A12 : All members of onboard staff have a phone enabling them to verify whether a booking office was closed. Passenger Focus will look into how you have been treated, and we apologise for any shortcomings in how we have treated you. There is no excuse for rudeness, cases of which we deal with through the disciplinary procedure. We are using actors to develop among our onboard staff the softer skills of interacting with customers, and are now ready to roll out the second stage of such training during July. Attendees at the forum also kindly acknowledged that we have many good members of staff whose abilities we should seek to develop.

 

Q13 (JB) : When will Fort Matilda get a Customer Information System?

A13 : We have fulfilled our franchise obligation to install CIS at stations in our top three categories.  Fort Matilda is outwith that obligation, but we shall bear it in mind should any future programme emerge – and meantime customers there and at other Inverclyde stations will benefit from the introduction of automated announcements (see A3 above).

 

Q14 (JB) : When will you clean the stairs from Glasgow Central to Argyle Street?

A14 : We have picked up this issue with Network Rail.

 

Q15 (JB) : Can the announcements at Glasgow Central be reordered so as to save you from having to listen to the whole thing before you can catch the destination?

A15 : We have commended this suggestion to Network Rail.

 

Q16 (AH) : Can the Customer Information System at Gourock give more time to train departures?

A16 : We shall review operation of the CIS at Gourock so as to get the right balance between arrivals and departures and other information that we must carry including security notices.

 

Q17 (MC) : What will be done to improve Bogston and Cartsdyke Stations for the Tall Ships?

A17 : Both stations will be repainted and rebranded, with new shelters and a ramp at Bogston to accommodate the homebound queue.

 

Q18 (AH) : What can be done to improve the cleanliness of the Class 314 trains?

A18 : We have a new Head of On -Train Environment who is working to improve the efficiency of our cleaning teams, measuring the standards that we achieve. We are investing in the refurbishment of these trains at a cost of £0.8M, increasing the level of comfort with new seat covers and cushions, new linoleum and lighting and an internal repaint. In addition, a series of modifications will improve the reliability of the fleet.

 

Q19 (AH) : Why when things go wrong do your information systems collapse into silence instead of simply telling us in general terms how bad things are?

A19 : We expect staff to provide whatever information is available, but sometimes they have to cope with rapidly changing situations, e.g. as trees or snow are cleared in front of a train, the problem may be closing in behind it. We do have contingency plans, and single line working is a possibility, but it can take time to put in place the necessary pilotman arrangements.

 

Q20 (JB) : Won't extension of electrification mean other routes having to suffer the impact on reliability associated with overhead line problems in Inverclyde?

A20 : Electric trains often are more reliable than diesels because they are simpler, drawing on power through the overheads instead of generating their own. Also although the overhead line equipment in Inverclyde has been refurbished, new electrification would employ modern equipment which is more robust.

 

Q21 (DC) : Will you press for introduction of more appropriate trains on Scotland's longer-distance interurban routes?

A21 : The present Class 170s were supplied with these routes in mind. We are committed to the present fleet for the duration of this franchise. Substitution of say HST or Voyager types of train would be a matter for Transport Scotland since they would be more expensive to lease and operate and thus could significantly add to the subsidy level of Scotland’s railway.

 

Q22 (MC) : Why after the winter disruption did I not get a refund on my weekly season or Zonecard?

A22 : The weekly season offers seven days of travel for the price of only three and three-quarter days, and our literature makes clear its exclusion from refund arrangements. The Zonecard is an SPT product and therefore also excluded. Passenger Focus works closely with train operators on their refund policies, and considers ScotRail’s to be one of the best.

 

Conclusion
Thanking everyone for contributing to the agenda for Passenger Focus’s future discussions with ScotRail, Robert Samson urged passengers to comment to train operators on instances of good or bad performance. If they were not satisfied with the response, they should take the matter up with Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel: 08453 022 022, email: info@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to Freepost RRRE-ETTC-LEET, PO Box 4257 Manchester M60 3AR.
 

Adding his thanks, Steve Montgomery said that ScotRail sought constant feedback and saw customer forums as usefully complementing other means of engagement including Meet the Manager sessions. Those issues for which it had not been possible to give a full answer would be pursued until every point had been resolved. A full record would sent to all participants and placed on the website, and any further queries for ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com

John Yellowlees, ScotRail External Relations Manager   tel : 0141-335 4787

13 June 2011

Copies: those present + registered + apologies

 

Paisley Customer Forum

NOTE OF THE SCOTRAIL CUSTOMER FORUM HELD AT PAISLEY TOWN HALL FROM 1800 ON WEDNESDAY 24 NOVEMBER 2010

Present
Robert Samson, Passenger Focus’s Scottish Link Manager in the chair        
21 members of the public
Steve Montgomery Managing Director, Alasdair McNicoll Projects Director, Kenny Scott Engineering Director and other ScotRail representatives.

Introduction:
Welcoming everyone to the forum, Robert Samson explained that his role as the Scottish Link Manager of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. The Forum helped Passenger Focus, the independent statutory watchdog body, to work with ScotRail and enabled both parties to hear what people had to say.  He thanked all for attending.


Introducing his team, Steve Montgomery stressed that the purpose of the evening was to hear views and suggestions, and if questions could not be answered immediately, every point would be followed up as necessary.

 
Q1 (WM): can the accesses to Williamwood Station closed off in 1982 be reopened?
A1 : the land has unfortunately been sold off, so this option is no longer available.

Q2 (RC): what is the impact on ScotRail of the cut in support proposed in the Scottish Government's draft budget?
A2: it is encouraging that there is no cut to our present services. Any impact on future capital projects has yet to be assessed.

Q3 (TH): what can be done to relieve overcrowded car-parks, and how will the proposed increase in line capacity on the Paisley Corridor be used?
A3: carparking is one of the biggest constraints on promotion of rail travel, but land acquisition can be an issue and planning permission for any multi-storey developments may be difficult to obtain. Following the recent provision of new platforms at Glasgow Central, a third track between Glasgow and Paisley will become available in 2012, and a complete review of the services running on the Ayrshire and Inverclyde routes is being undertaken by Transport Scotland so as to make best use of these enhancements.

Q4 (MR): why the delay in publishing the Airdrie-Bathgate timetable?
A4: introduction of the new Class 380 trains to the Ayrshire and Inverclyde routes has been delayed due to issues that emerged during the commissioning process, holding up release of the existing Class 334 trains for the new route. Details of our Helensburgh-Edinburgh introductory timetable from Sunday 12 December can be viewed on our website at http://www.scotrail.co.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Glasgow-Edinburgh_via_A2B.pdf - the service initially runs hourly on Mondays-Fridays pending availability of further trains, but a full half-hourly frequency is available on Saturdays and on Sunday afternoons.

Q5 (KD) : earlier this month why was the website saying that East Kilbride trains were on time when on going to the station I found mine running 20 minutes late?
A5 : the day when you travelled Monday 8 November was the one when the heaviest leaf-fall of the autumn occurred, causing adhesion difficulties that necessitated reduction to an hourly service. We put news of this reduction on our website and I am sorry if the position was not clear.

Q6 (SMcI) : Johnstone Station has new doors, but the waiting room remains cold - would you consider installing additional heating supplied by renewable energy?
A6 : we are certainly interested in the application of renewable energy. The rail industry is looking at the application of solar power to signals, and a scheme is in development for a solar-powered customer information system at rural stations.

Q7 (RC) : at Girvan the powered doors open even when someone gets up to consult a timetable, could one of the doors be unpowered to conserve heat?
A7: we shall review operation of the door-panels at Girvan, having regard to the need to ensure that the station remains compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Q8 (RC): you have tightened up on provision of alternative transport in the event of a train cancellation, but could there be greater consideration of rural routes where it can be a long wait to the next train?
A8: there has got to be commonsense in the provision of alternative transport since buses are not just sitting around awaiting train-service disruption. At remote locations it sometimes makes greater sense to use taxis, and we shall keep an eye on the situation.

Q9  (MR): taxis are not offered at Airdrie?
A9 : requests will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis depending on the number of passengers and how long they will be delayed.

Q10 (MR): sometimes station doors come outwards instead of sliding, which means that they can open in the face of a wheelchair-user?
A10: the presumption is in favour of sliding doors. Sometimes however we have to adapt old buildings whose layout may not permit their provision.

Q11 (WM): why do some stations still lack Ticket Vending Machines?
A11: TVMs at busier stations were funded by ScotRail, while elsewhere Transport Scotland paid for them and therefore chose the locations. We shall be reviewing the coverage of our network in association with the introduction of automatic ticket gates at Glasgow Central.

Q12 (SD): when the 1011 Glasgow-Inverness arrived too late to connect into the 1334 Inverness-Kyle, taxis were provided instead, but you could have saved money by attaching the Kyle train to the rear of the 1359 Inverness-Wick as far as Dingwall?
A12: we can see the merits of your suggestion, but ScotRail are regulated and any such arrangement might have to be agreed with Transport Scotland, who would wish to take account of the implications for onward connections.

Q13 (AL): why are return fares sometimes cheaper than the equivalent single?
A13: this could be a function of the time of day. The fares structure dates from the days of the old Strathclyde PTE, who for the purpose of revenue protection set the single fare at just less than the price of the offpeak return.

Q14 (IH): could we have a five-journey ticket?
A14: some routes have multi-journey Flexipass tickets. We had to stop rolling these out elsewhere due to their fraudulent use, but hope during 2011 to have a Smartcard in place for flexible journeys.

Q15 (IH): the Sunday service to Dumfries is incredibly poor?
A15: the frequency is as specified in our Franchise Agreement. We have considered additional services, and it is clear that they would not be able to cover their costs. We are advised by Transport Scotland that there is no funding available to support additional services.

Q16 (GE): could the far platform at Westerton that is used both ways by the Sleeper be made accessible?
A16: there is no plan to do so in the near future. Transport Scotland have in the past sought stakeholder views on the priorities for such investment, but the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review may have a bearing on affordability.

Q17 (JS): are there lessons from other stations for the installation of automatic ticket gates at Glasgow Central?
A17: we have learned where best to locate staff providing customer assistance and how we should handle fraud issues. Customers were at first slow to pass through the barriers at Queen Street and Edinburgh stations, but soon learned not to stand back.

Q18 (CD): there always seem to be delays to Glasgow-bound services at Gilmour Street around 0850-0900?
A18: performance is generally good, but has recently been affected by adhesion difficulties during the autumn leaf-fall. We shall have a look at the timekeeping of these trains which, being at the end of the morning peak may be subject to the accrual of delays during the previous couple of hours.  Our Public Performance Measure prior to the autumn was 94% and during autumn and winter it has fallen to 76%.

Q19 (AMcL): in particular the 0929 arrival from Gourock is often late, jeopardising my connection to the south, and we always seem to be checked between Shields and Glasgow Central?
A19: our look at timekeeping will include that of the 0836 Gourock-Glasgow.  The performance of this service from 22/08/10 to 11/12/10 has been reasonably good, the PPM has been 92%.

Q20 (AMcL): what is the future of the former Virgin Lounge at Central?
A20: this building may have to be demolished in order to accommodate the automatic ticket gateline.

Q21 (AMcL) : Network Rail and BAA were keen to contribute to the Glasgow Airport Rail Link, why can't the politicians stand back and let the other players get on with it?
A21: the cancellation of Garl was a political decision, and strategic investment priorities are inevitably set by the political process.
 
Q22 (IC): delays sometimes occur when the conductor emerges to provide disabled assistance from a different door than that nearest to the ramp?
A22: when adapting the Class 156 trains, the ramp had to be accommodated in the middle of the train, whereas the wheelchair space is at the toilet end.

Q23 (IC): can the 1730 Glasgow-Ayr be brought into line with all other services by calling at Kilwinning?
A23: the service is as specified in our Franchise Agreement. A complete review of the services running on the Ayrshire and Inverclyde routes is being undertaken by Transport Scotland as part of the Paisley Corridor Infrastructure enhancements.

Q24 (ML): likewise could the 1725 Glasgow-Gourock stop at Bishopton?
A24: see previous answer.

Q25 (ML): why can't Bishopton senior citizens qualify for the SPT flat-fare concession when they're a similar distance to Johnstone which does?
A25: this is a matter for SPT.

Q26 (WM): instead of running the Cathcart Circle on Saturdays, why not a 20-minute frequency to Newton and Neilston so as to benefit the new carpark at Patterton?
A26: the frequency is as specified in our Franchise Agreement. We have considered additional services, and it is clear that they would not be able to cover their costs. We are advised by Transport Scotland that there is no funding available to support additional services.

Q27 (WM): six-car trains ran in the evening peaks to Neilston until last December, why can’t you resume that practice?
A27: the methodology of the allocation of rolling-stock is specified in the Franchise Agreement. We are required to allocate stock so as to minimise the numbers of passengers standing in excess of 10 minutes. This requires us to review the numbers of passengers travelling on every service and to make changes as appropriate to the rolling stock allocation. With specific regard to the Neilston route, the rolling stock has been re-allocated to services that are busier. Our allocation of rolling stock is subject to review for every timetable change by Transport Scotland.

Q28 (TH): why is the peak restriction morning-only within Strathclyde but morning and evening peaks between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and could Smartcards bring benefits in this area an also for integrated ticketing?
A28: this is the position that we have inherited, but where travel in one direction is during the off-peak, Smart ticketing should in future allow it to be charged accordingly. Integrated ticketing requires all operators to use the same system, enabling every provider to read each other’s ticket types. Our Smartcard is ITSO-compliant, but the Oystercard developed by Transport for London is not.

Q29 (TH): how much is the national free concession on buses affecting demand for rail?
A29: the success of Club 55 has enabled us to withstand the impacts of free bus travel and also Council reductions in their rail concessions. Notwithstanding the arrival of new trains providing more seats, it is doubtful whether we would be able to accommodate the demand that might be stimulated by provision of free rail travel for seniors.

Q30 (KD): could action be taken to prevent vandals from throwing objects off the footbridge at Thornliebank?
A30: we shall review with Network Rail the number of incidents at this location.

Q31 (KD): why four carriages to Stranraer on Sundays but not weekdays?
A31: we provide additional carriages on Sundays due to the passenger count information which requires us to provide them due to the loadings.

Q32 (MR): what provision for wheelchair users on your new trains?
A32: the Class 380s come fully equipped with ramps, and staff are being trained in their safe operation including selective door opening at stations with short platforms, where the doors in only the front five carriages may be activated to open. At every station at least two wheelchair spaces and one accessible toilet will be within the platformed part of each train

Q33(GE): why are the new platforms at Glasgow Central not full-length?
A33: because, envisaging its use only as a carriageway, the Caledonian Railway did not strengthen this part of the bridge carrying the station over Argyle Street.

Q34 (RC): can the heating on Class 156 trains used on the Stranraer route be more easily controlled, and will their toilets be fitted with retention tanks so as to stop excrement falling onto the track?
A34: the heating on these trains comes off the waste heat from the engines, but the arrangement is very simple making no allowance for changing the temperature. We are looking into whether there might be a more efficient way of turning off the heating in summer. In partnership with Network Rail, we fitted retention tanks to our Class 158 fleet; however we were unable to identify any way of doing so to the Class 156s.

Q35 (GE): might Class 158s be cascaded from Bathgate to Dumfries?
A35: the Class 158 units released from the Bathgate route will be used to end the temporary hire of locomotive hauled rolling stock currently being used on the Fife Circle. However Class 158 units are not cleared to operate passenger services on the Kilmarnock - Carlisle route, and the biggest issue may be the remedial works required to resolve stepping distances between the platforms and the train.

Conclusion

Thanking everyone for providing a remarkably wide-ranging agenda for Passenger Focus’s future discussions with ScotRail, Robert Samson urged passengers to comment to train operators on instances of good or bad performance. If they were not satisfied with the response, they should take the matter up with Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel: 08453 022 022, email : info@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to Freepost RRRE-ETTC-LEET, PO Box 4257, Manchester M60 3AR.

Adding his thanks, Steve Montgomery said that ScotRail sought constant feedback and saw customer forums as usefully complementing other means of engagement including Meet the Manager sessions. Those issues for which it had not been possible to give a full answer would be pursued until every point had been resolved. A full record would sent to all participants and placed on the website, and any further queries for ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com

Perth Customer Forum

FINAL NOTE OF THE SCOTRAIL CUSTOMER FORUM HELD AT THE QUEENS HOTEL PERTH FROM 1900 ON TUESDAY 18 MAY 2010

Present
James King, Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus in the chair
Robert Samson, Passenger Focus’s Scottish Link Manager.        
15 members of the public, including Cllr Bob Band.
Steve Montgomery Managing Director, Kenny McPhail Deputy Managing Director and Finance Director, Alasdair McNicoll Projects Director, Jacqui Dey Operations Director, Kenny Scott Engineering Director and other ScotRail representatives.
 
Introduction:
Welcoming everyone to the forum, James King explained that his role as the Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. The Forum allowed Passenger Focus, the independent statutory watchdog body, to work with ScotRail and for both parties to hear what people had to say.  He thanked all for attending.
Introducing his team, Steve Montgomery stressed that the purpose of the evening was to hear views and suggestions, and if questions could not be answered immediately, every point would be followed up as necessary.


Questions and answers (questioners’ initials shown in brackets)


Q1 RL : What are you doing to address the staff shortage which has led to recurrent closure of the Perth travel shop?
A1 : We have unfortunately had issues of long-term sickness and a vacancy, but are now interviewing applicants and hope to have them in post once their medicals and training are complete. Meanwhile we shall continue to draft in temporary cover from other stations so as to ensure that the travel shop is kept open. (Note  : the new staff member has now started work, and cover is in place for another staff member on maternity leave.)

Q2 MM : When will you learn to clean properly train toilets and seatbacks, provide reliable power-sockets and internet access throughout your trains, make a chilled drinks service available from your trolleys and tackle the smell in the tunnel outside Queen Street?
A2 : People naturally don’t like using a toilet that is not their own, but all train toilets receive a heavy clean each night - and we now have a roving team of two who are exclusively dedicated to reporting on their condition. We have started a programme of changing toilet seats, and agree that ingrained dirt down the back of train seats is unacceptable. The roving team also checks sockets, which sometimes trip out because customers plug in unsuitable items like hairdryers or curling tongs. Our new Class 380 electric trains will have sockets throughout Standard Class. We are studying whether there could be a business case for equipping our Class 170 fleet with Internet access. Ice is again becoming available on our trolleys. The smell in the tunnel emanates from the site of an old chemical works, so is the responsibility of Glasgow City Council.

Q3 EN : Please can you tackle the broken concrete at the end of Platform 4, reinstate the left-luggage facility now that you've got CCTV cameras, improve the heating from the inadequate 2-bar radiator in the waiting room on Platform One and tackle the station roof which leaks rainwater and pigeon mess?
A4 : Our landlord Network Rail has carried out temporary repairs to frost damage at 60 stations over the winter and is coming back to make permanent ones – however taking that opportunity to fit a “Harrington hump” reducing the stepping distance from low platforms had been found inappropriate to our footfall figures. In accordance with security advice, reinstatement of a left-luggage facility would require staff that we could not justify. We shall ensure that radiators in waiting rooms on Perth Platform One and also at Shotts Station are restored to working order. Network Rail could find no business case for replacing the station roof, but any area of pigeon droppings that we are unable to remove should be cordoned off.  (Note : the heater at Shotts had already been repaired. The efficiency of the one at Perth Platform One is now being reviewed.)

Q4 RB : Have Transport Scotland yet called off the Perth-Glasgow priced option?
A4 : The option in the franchise extension for an additional hourly Perth-Glasgow service has not yet been called off because further work is being carried out on it, so we are unable to give any timescale – and while things are looking reasonably hopeful, it is now too late to consider implementation for this December.

Q5 DB : Could every second Aberdeen-Glasgow train call meantime at Gleneagles so that the station may resume its role as a railhead for Crieff?
A5 : No, because services are tightly timed and already well-loaded. The existing bus service from Crieff to Auchterarder does not go to the station.

Q6 KN : Is my Perth & Kinross concession card valid on rail?
A6: All Councils fund free travel by blind and partially-sighted people who have the eye symbol on their National Entitlement Card. We apologise for any rudeness shown by our on-train staff, and shall consider an opportunity to rebrief them. (Note : booking office staff at Perth, Pitlochry and Dundee are being made aware of the issue, and on-train staff will be briefed.)

Q7 SF : Can the recent investment in Invergowrie Station soon be matched by an increase in the number of trains calling there?
A7 : The platforms have been rebuilt by Network Rail. Service levels across Scotland are set by Transport Scotland – we can seek agreement to extra calls, but are aware that the service was reduced some years ago due to lack of demand. However Tactran’s Tay Estuary Rail Study recommends an hourly Perth-Arbroath service which would call at Invergowrie, and has been passed to Transport Scotland for their consideration.

Q8 AC : Please can Dundee-Inverness connections be improved, might the 1941 Glasgow-Aberdeen call additionally at Montrose and can you improve your organisation of bus substitution?
A8 : More Dundee-Inverness journey opportunities could be achieved only by running additional trains, and while HITRANS are hopeful that Transport Scotland may support additional services on the Highland Main Line there is as yet no decision. Tactran’s Tay Estuary Rail Study would also assist by delivering more trains between Dundee and Perth. We shall investigate whether the 1941 might call additionally at Montrose without detriment to other services. We are disappointed to hear that our organisation of bus substitution may not have been working properly, and shall review arrangements including our hiring-in of bus coordinators. Passenger Focus have campaigned against bus substitution, and Network Rail are now making greater use of single-line working to keep passengers on trains, while ScotRail and other train operators are supporting the PIDD initiative to improve passenger information during periods of disruption. (Note: we shall review our arrangements when each bus substitution for engineering operations arises. We are also arranging for a project exercise to be carried out to set a template of the requirements for customer handling during bus operations.)

Q9 RL : At Perth please could there be more carparking?
A9 : Lack of carparking preventing passengers from taking advantage of surplus capacity on offpeak trains is one of the greatest deterrents to growth of rail travel. There is no available land for additional parking within the station lease, so ScotRail will ask Network Rail whether they are able to make any other land available. Perth & Kinross Council provides a bus linking park-and-ride sites with Perth Station, and will investigate whether its present operation which changes direction during the day could be improved.

Q10 KC : What can you do to address the anomaly that for travel on the 0712 from Blair Atholl to Perth it is cheaper to buy an advance fare to Dundee?
A10 : The 0712 Blair Atholl-Edinburgh is not a reservable service so cannot offer a Blair Atholl-Perth advance fare. However a weekly season can offer an appreciable saving on the full fare even for those who travel only four days a week.

Q11 BB : Can bus interchange be improved at Perth Station?
A11 : The land behind the Station Hotel is now required for enhanced stabling of carriages overnight.

Q12 DB : What can you do to increase recycling of rubbish?
A12 : ScotRail are rolling out an environmental policy of segregating types of waste materials at source.

Conclusion
Thanking everyone for providing a tremendously good agenda for Passenger Focus’s future discussions with ScotRail, James King urged passengers to comment to train operators on instances of good or bad performance. If they were not satisfied with the response, they should take the matter up with Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel: 08453 022 022, email : info@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to Freepost RRRE-ETTC-LEET, PO Box 4257, Manchester M60 3AR.
Adding his thanks, Steve Montgomery said that ScotRail sought constant feedback and saw customer forums as usefully complementing other means of engagement including Meet the Manager sessions. Those issues for which it had not been possible to give a full answer would be pursued until every point had been resolved. A full record would sent to all participants and placed on the website, and any further queries for ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com
John Yellowlees, ScotRail External Relations Manager   tel : 0141-335 4787
4 June 2010

Copies: those present + registered + apologies

Linlithgow Customer Forum

NOTE OF THE SCOTRAIL CUSTOMER FORUM HELD AT THE WEST PORT HOTEL LINLITHGOW FROM 1745 ON THURSDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2009

 

Present
James King, Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus in the chair.        
21 members of the public including Michael Connarty MP and Mary Mulligan MSP
Kenny McPhail, Deputy Managing Director and Finance Director, Alasdair McNicoll, Projects Director, Gerard O’Hanlon, Director of Business Development, Kenny Scott, Engineering Director and other ScotRail representatives

Introduction:
Welcoming everyone to the forum, James King explained that his role as the Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. The Forum allowed Passenger Focus, the independent statutory watchdog body, to work with ScotRail and for both to hear what people had to say.  He thanked all for attending.
Introducing his team, Kenny McPhail stressed that the evening was to hear views and suggestions and if questions could not be answered immediately, every point would be followed up as necessary.
Questions and answers (questioners’ initials shown in brackets):

Q1 (CL) : What are the implications of the Airdrie-Bathgate opening for Linlithgow?
A1 : While not directly impacting on services at Linlithgow, the new route will attract some passengers away from the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line, thus easing pressure on train capacity at Linlithgow. Already in preparation for introduction of the new service, the Dunblane-Edinburgh route has become separately operated from Bathgate-Edinburgh, thus improving performance. Edinburgh Park will be served with four trains an hour in each direction linking Edinburgh with Glasgow and beyond via Bathgate.

Q2 (CC) : When will lifts and escalators be provided at the Waverley Steps?
A2 : Network Rail’s application to provide two lifts and three escalators was delayed by the Balmoral Hotel’s concerns - and then had to be called in due to objections. An inquiry was held on 21 July, and judgment might not be forthcoming before Christmas. With a June 2010 start, escalators and a glass cover could be in place June 2011 with lifts following April 2012. Meanwhile listed building consent has just been received for lifts at Haymarket, where work continues on the programme and design with a view to achieving completion before that at Waverley.

Q3 (LB) What can be done to prevent Linlithgow Station from having to be closed whenever there is a staff shortage in the booking office?
A3 : There have been issues with last-minute call-offs by booking office staff, but installation of shutters in the next couple of weeks will allow the station to open regardless of whether the booking office is staffed.

Q4 (SW) : Will you ensure that Croy is added to the calls shown on the website for the special service on Saturdays due to engineering work on the Edinburgh-Glasgow line, and why do Croy calls in Edinburgh-Glasgow services go down hourly after the evening peak?
A4 : Grateful for pointing out this oversight, which will be corrected. When the Edinburgh-Glasgow service goes down to half-hourly after the evening peak, the frequency of calls at Croy reduces proportionately because calling all trains would unacceptably extend journey-times. However the extension of the fifteen-minute frequency to 1930 in the May 2008 timetable enabled introduction of an additional call by the 1900 Edinburgh-Glasgow at Croy.

Q5 (MC) : Will the travelling public be consulted so as to ensure that intermediate towns don't lose out in the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme?
A5 : Any consultation would be a matter for Transport Scotland, whose communications strategy ScotRail will be happy to support. Passenger Focus welcome electrification, but have laid down a marker that communities along the route must be involved and will be surveying up to 3000 users.

Q6 (MM) : Who will pay for the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme?
A6 : The Programme stretched beyond the current franchise period, and will be funded by Network Rail and the Scottish Government.

Q7 (RF) : Won't more track capacity be needed so as to ease the operational constraints imposed by trains calling for airport transfers at Gogar and Edinburgh Park?
A7: The Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme is taking a wide-ranging view of timetabling and capacity issues. Network Rail is in the lead on the current consultation about the proposed interchange at Gogar - and are fully consulting ScotRail. Passenger Focus understand that the layout may look more gradient-friendly than the artist’s impression might suggest.

Q8 (DDF) : Why don't you invest in persuading people to walk or cycle instead of driving to the station?
A8 : There may not be any easy answers, especially where no land is available within railway ownership. Passenger Focus believes that additional charging for car-parking on top of expensive rail fares would push people into driving all the way.

Q9 (DDF) : Edinburgh-Glasgow has to be one of the best routes for cycling provision, but why not provide more capacity for cycles on trains between Glasgow or Edinburgh and Inverness?
A9 : A big event this weekend at Inverness may be pushing up demand for cycle spaces. We plan in December 2009 to transfer the ex Hull Class 170/3 trains, which have only two cycle-spaces, away from the Inverness route, replacing them with normal Class 170/4s which have four.

Q10 (NL) : Why does the restriction on off-peak travel include the 1815 in both directions between Edinburgh and Glasgow, disadvantaging Linlithgow since the 1830 doesn't stop there?
A10 : We shall review the situation against known loadings, but would point out that the 1815 trains in each direction are the first ones after the evening peak to go down to three carriages so that they are likely to be already fairly busy.

Q11 (ND) : Are you sufficiently involved in planning for major upcoming sporting or cultural events?
A11 : We are actively involved in planning for special events in order that best use may be made of available train capacity for occasions ranging from Open Golf championships to the Edinburgh Festivals.

Q12 (JR) : What are you doing about aggressive staff behaviour at Edinburgh Waverley?
A12 : Aggressive behaviour is totally unacceptable, and we have already addressed the customer’s complaint in a number of ways. ScotRail is committed to investing £1M a year in staff training and development in order that staff may be encouraged to give of their best. Passenger Focus urges customers to complain about any instance of unacceptable behaviour in order that the operator may be able to take action, and then if not satisfied with the response to take up the matter with themselves at the address below.

Q13 (FMcF) : Why can't I use my 16-25 Railcard to buy tickets on the train and to travel before 1000 when the off-peak ticket watershed is 0915?
A13 : Under our buy before your board policy, we give customers every opportunity to buy discounted tickets whether at booking offices, ticket vending machines or online. Purchases with a 16-25 Railcard may be made subject to a minimum fare for travel before 1000, reflecting the Railcard’s original purpose as a means of encouraging long-distance travel by rail between home and college. The 1000 watershed for purchases without a minimum fare has been set nationally by the Association of Train Operating Companies, who manage this Great Britain-wide product.

Q14 (RF) : What can be done to trim the duration of automated on-train announcements on the Fife Circle?
A14 : We have reduced the repetitiveness of announcements, but can look again at how best to convey information about journey opportunities without subjecting customers to excessive or confusing information. Passenger Focus would like to see the volume of announcements also reviewed.

Q15 (LP) : When I forget my 16-25 Railcard, normally I offer to pay the full fare but on one occasion the conductor asked to see it and when I refused to pay the full fare accused me of committing fraud, why this inconsistency when most times they don’t ask?
A15 : Customers should always produce their Railcard when showing a ticket purchased with it.

Q16 (LP) : Can there be a Sunday service to Newcraighall?
A16 : We are contracted to run Sunday services on specified routes for Transport Scotland, whom Passenger Focus are seeking to persuade that a trial service might be introduced using rolling stock that is between duties on the North Berwick route.

Q17 (WS) : Could the dwell-time on Page 1 of announcements on customer information screens at Waverley be lengthened?
A17 : We shall pursue this suggestion with Network Rail Major Stations who operate Waverley.

Q18 (MM) : Can bus links with Linlithgow Station be improved as an alternative to expanding car-parking?
A18 : ScotRail and First Edinburgh do not have a record of specific complaints about links between bus and rail at Linlithgow, but if future customer feedback indicates specific problems, we shall be more than happy to discuss again with the bus operator to see if anything can be done. ScotRail works closely with bus operators to provide integrated ticketing, including the popular PlusBus scheme, giving passengers a day's unlimited bus travel in Linlithgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere, for a flat addition to their rail fare. We also participate in the "One Ticket" product, allowing bus and rail travel across east and central Scotland for weekly, monthly or annual periods.

Q19 (MM) : Can there be a Sunday service on the Shotts Line through Fauldhouse?
A19 : Introduction of a Sunday service would require agreement by Transport Scotland.

Q20 (CC) : Can staff parking at Linlithgow be relocated so as to allow provision of further disabled bays?
A20 : We shall be pleased to investigate.

Q21 (RF) : Can all services be strengthened for the Leuchars Airshow?
A21 : We do provide additional carriages on existing services where possible, and keep historical data in order that lessons may be learned for future years. Inclement weather in 2008 caused many customers to head for home well before the end of proceedings.

Q22 (DDF) : Might ScotRail be able to respond to Transport Scotland's consultation on car-parking at stations by urging that the emphasis should be changed to access by all modes to stations?
A22 : Passenger Focus are alive to the wider agenda, but from the outcome of the six-monthly National Passenger Survey believe that car-parking must be improved if people are going to be persuaded not to drive long distances.

Q23 (SW) : Can you persuade the landowner to fill in the potholes at the temporary carpark for Croy Station?
A23 : We shall investigate land ownership with a view to pursuing the need for such repairs.

Conclusion
Thanking everyone for such a varied input, James King urged passengers to comment to train operators on instances of good or bad performance. If they were not satisfied with the response, they should take the matter up with Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel: 08453 022 022, email : info@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to Freepost RRRE-ETTC-LEET, PO Box 4257, Manchester M60 3AR.

Adding his thanks, Kenny McPhail said that ScotRail sought constant feedback and saw customer forums as usefully complementing other means of engagement including Meet the Manager sessions. Those issues for which it had not been possible to give a full answer would be pursued until every point had been resolved. A full record would sent to all participants and placed on the website, and any further queries for ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com

Dundee Customer Forum

NOTE OF THE SCOTRAIL CUSTOMER FORUM HELD AT THE DUNDEE HILTON FROM 1745 ON THURSDAY 21 MAY 2009


Present
Robert Samson, Passenger Link Manager Passenger Focus in the chair.        
Eighteen members of the public including Jim McGovern MP, Stewart Mowatt Assistant to Mike Weir MP and Eric Guthrie, Director Tactran.
Steve Montgomery Managing Director, Kenny McPhail Finance Director and Deputy Managing Director, Alasdair McNicoll Projects Director, Gerard O’Hanlon Director of Business Development and other ScotRail representatives
Introduction:
Welcoming everyone to the forum, Robert Samson explained that his role as the Passenger Link Manager of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. The Forum allowed Passenger Focus, the independent statutory watchdog body, to work with ScotRail and for both to hear what people had to say.  He thanked all for attending.
Introducing his team, Steve Montgomery stressed that the evening was to hear views and suggestions and if questions could not be answered immediately, every point would be followed up as necessary.
Questions and answers (questioners’ initials shown in brackets):

Q1 (SM) : Mike Weir's emails to Network Rail about safety of the Montrose Station approach road are going unanswered, can you ensure that he gets a response?
A1 : We are sorry to hear that Mr Weir has experienced this difficulty and shall now take the matter up with Network Rail’s Route Director.

Q2 (DS) : Can Dundee have a train getting us into Glasgow before the present 0834 first arrival so that we may connect for the 0821 to Oban?
A2 : There are issues of capacity on the approach to Glasgow Queen Street which may not be fully resolved until completion of Transport Scotland’s  Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme in 2016. However we shall be happy to bear in mind for future timetable changes as to whether it may be possible to retime the present 0533 Aberdeen-Glasgow or provide an earlier service from Dundee.

Q3 (JB) : For Montrose-Dundee commuters why was one train removed in the winter timetable while homebound the 1725 has become 1739 and we have to stand due to seat reservations?
A3 : Last December’s recast was the biggest on this route since 1991 and brought many benefits including improved journey-times and reduced overcrowding for Aberdeen-Edinburgh travellers – but inevitably compromises had to be struck, and we are aware that there have been some downsides. There has been no reduction in southbound calls in the morning peak at Montrose, though retiming of the 0745 to Glasgow to depart at 0818 makes it too late for anyone needing to be in Dundee at 0830. In the homebound direction the former 1605 Edinburgh-Dyce is now the much-accelerated 1629 Edinburgh-Inverurie but the CrossCountry train which formerly left Edinburgh at 1630 now runs two hours later. We cannot stop commuters booking seats, but conductors are instructed to remind passengers on busy trains that they should not leave luggage on seats, and we shall now arrange for a count of passengers on the 1629 Edinburgh-Inverurie after departure from Dundee.

Q4 (PS) : Can the 0614 Carnoustie-Dundee be brought forward to connect into the 0632 Cross Country departure?
A4 : We shall be happy to bear in mind for future timetable changes.

Q5 (AS) : Can Monifieth have a local service like the Invernet one round Inverness?
A5 : Tactran has recently undertaken a comprehensive update of the previous Tay Estuary Rail Study (TERS).  This aims to provide an additional hourly stopping service from Arbroath through to Glasgow, giving a much improved service for existing stations, such as Monifieth and Broughty Ferry and also looks at possible new/re-opened stations at Dundee West, Blackford and Greenloaning.  The work looks to integrate with and build on Transport Scotland’s priced option in the franchise extension for an additional hourly Glasgow-Perth service which, if projected through to Arbroath, would improve the frequency of calls at other local stations. The outcomes of the TERS study are due to be presented next month to the Tactran Board who will be asked to commend its findings to Transport Scotland for detailed discussion on implementation.

Q6 (AL) : How can access to rail travel be improved for users of mobility scooters?
A6 : Unfortunately scooters outwith the permitted dimensions cannot be carried on our trains because they do not comply with a requirement that users should be safely evacuated..

Q7 (JMcG) : What can ScotRail do to promote the improvement of Dundee Station?
A7 : ScotRail lease Dundee Station from Network Rail who own the asset. The party that leads any such improvement must effectively be whoever has the funding, and while ScotRail will be a willing partner we cannot take the lead because it is not our asset. Our job of keeping the station in a reasonable condition should not be underestimated, and we can share information on the facilities that we would require from any improvement. We shall be happy to be involved in any campaign to secure funding for Dundee during Network Rail’s 2009-14 Control Period, where a third-party funding mechanism may be needed to secure progress.  Work on options for improving the current station to offer improved passenger facilities and retail opportunities as part of the Dundee Waterfront regeneration project has been taken forward by Dundee City Council with support from Tactran and the rail industry, but any such proposals will be dependent on securing third-party funding.

Q8 (AMcD) : The last train from Glasgow to Dundee is at 2141, yet there are later ones at 2248 and 2348  to Perth, can these be extended to Dundee?
A8 : Again we shall be happy to bear in mind for future timetable changes.

Q9 (CMcH) : Can the advertised trolleys be provided, seat reservations be made more reliable and train heating be improved in winter, also can trains carry enough complaint forms, and can parking at Dundee be improved and the new gap from 0735 to 0822 in departures for Edinburgh due to loss of the 0759 be filled?
A9 : Trolley provision has to be viable, but wherever we advertise the facility we do make every effort within our available resources to provide it – coverage has improved since we brought catering in-house at the start of this franchise. Seats can be booked online, but a balance has to be struck between seating provision and capacity for luggage and bicycles – the situation  may ease after 2016 when Edinburgh-Glasgow electrification breaks the present link between that route and services to and from Dundee and beyond. Train performance is reported daily, and with the weather now proving kinder the figures looked reasonable but issues with the Class 170 trains including heating will be addressed when they go in for their forthcoming C4 overhaul. Conductors should carry complaint forms, though the supply may be insufficient for a serious failure. Parking at Dundee is a long-standing issue which may be addressed only in a major upgrade of the station. We shall keep under review the Dundee-Edinburgh timetable where an additional 0830 service has been introduced, following the retimed 0822 which as a result is now non-stop to Haymarket.

Q10 (JB) : Dundee Station's friendly staff help make up for its other shortcomings, but can commuters have a tax rebate on their fares?
A10 : We are grateful for this acknowledgment, which in no way diverts us from our desire to see an improved Dundee Station. A scheme called Salary Sacrifice does provide the ability for tax clawback on public transport season tickets where employers and transport providers agree to participate.  Tactran have a Travel Plan Officer whose role is to assist employers in formulating such plans and they will look into this further in liaison with ScotRail 

Q11 (PS) : Ladybank and now Laurencekirk have more departures than Monifieth or Broughty Ferry, can we have more calls there too please?
A11 : Inserting additional calls in existing services would have an unacceptable impact on journey-times, but Tactran’s Tay Estuary Rail Study holds out the possibility of additional services building on those to which Transport Scotland is already committed. As well as calling at existing stations including Monifieth and Broughty Ferry, TERS also investigates the potential for providing new stations including one in West Dundee at Riverside Drive serving Ninewells and the Technology Park and offering a Park & Ride option for commuters, which could replace the present poorly-sited Invergowrie and complement an improved Dundee Station.

Q12 (DS) : Why do we have a 0915 restriction on Club 55 when passengers from Glasgow for the West Highlands can board any service?
A12 : The 0915 restriction provides a watershed that is easily understood by customers and staff alike. Its aim is to give priority to commuters who have to travel before that time, but the West and North Highland Lines are exempted in recognition of the limited frequency on offer there.

Q13 (AL) : What steps are you taking in anticipation of full DDA commencement in 2020?
A13 : The new trains that we are procuring will be fully compliant. We are in discussion with Transport Scotland about what to do about existing fleets notably the Sleepers that do not conform to the new requirements, and are pressing for improvements to stations drawing on Transport Scotland’s  Access for All funding.

Q14 (CMcH) : What are you doing to improve provision of information during disruption?
A14 : Disruption handling has been identified as a key area for improvement. As an industry, we have difficulty admitting our ignorance of causes, so that effort is going into persuading on-train staff that it may be better to announce that they do not yet know why the train is being delayed than to stay silent until such information comes to hand.

Conclusion
Thanking everyone for their input, Robert Samson urged passengers to comment to train operators on instances of good or bad performance. If they were not satisfied with the response, they should take the matter up with Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel: 08453 022 022, email: info@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to Freepost RRRE-ETTC-LEET, PO Box 4257, Manchester M60 3AR.

Adding his thanks, Steve Montgomery said that ScotRail sought constant feedback and saw customer forums as usefully complementing other means of engagement including Meet the Manager sessions. Those issues for which it had not been possible to give a full answer would be pursued until every point had been resolved. Any further queries for ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com

Edinburgh Customer Forum

NOTE OF THE FIRST SCOTRAIL CUSTOMER FORUM HELD AT THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS IN EDINBURGH FROM 1830 ON THURSDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2008


Present
Robert Samson, Passenger Link Manager Passenger Focus in the chair.        
Twenty members of the public including Trond Haugen, adviser to Sestran.
Steve Montgomery Operations and Safety Director and Acting Managing Director, Peter Williams Commercial Director, Alasdair McNicoll Projects Director, Gerard O’Hanlon Head of Business Development and other First ScotRail representatives


Introduction:
Welcoming everyone to the forum, Robert Samson explained that his role as the Passenger Link Manager of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. The Forum allowed Passenger Focus, the independent, statutory watchdog body, to work with First ScotRail and for both to hear what people had to say.  He thanked all for attending.
Introducing his team, Steve Montgomery stressed that the evening was to hear views and suggestions and if questions could not be answered immediately, every point would be followed up as necessary.
Questions and answers (questioners’ initials shown in brackets – Passenger Focus comments in italics):

Q1 (DP) : What plans are there to relieve overcrowding on the Edinburgh-Aberdeen route?
A1 : Diversion of Longannet coal trains to run via the new Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine Railway will enable us to introduce commencing 15 December an additional hourly Edinburgh-Dundee service to which most calls in Fife will be transferred from our Edinburgh-Aberdeen trains. With Edinburgh-Perth also going hourly, there will thus be an additional 1200 seats daily on services linking Edinburgh with Fife and beyond.

Q2 (MG) : What impact will transfer of Newcraighall to the Fife Circle have on reliability of services at Dalmeny?
A2 : The Route Utilisation Strategy for Scotland recommended that, to aid performance, the Edinburgh Crossrail should be discontinued, with the Newcraighall service becoming a shuttle from Waverley. However it proved possible to retain through running by transferring Newcraighall services from Bathgate/Dunblane to Fife, thus using the lines on the north side of Waverley where they can be more easily accommodated. There is no alteration in the number of Crossrail services, but the redevelopment of Waverley Station during 2007 has provided additional platforms which they can use.

Q3 (SD) : Why do safety messages have such prominence, whether it’s on station monitors, “hold the handrail“ messages at Queen Street Low Level and Dundee or conductors’ announcements on late-night trains?
A3 :    Safety is paramount, and a balance has to be struck between such messages and other information. At Queen Street and Dundee the number of accidents on the stairs has reduced since the introduction of announcements.   Conductors can use their discretion the appropriateness of their announcements, but we are mandated by Transec to display safety announcements on our station monitors. We shall however review with Transec the scope for freezing the security announcement on a single screen rather than rotating it through all screens at a station.

Q4 (NS) : The Edinburgh Crossrail is great when it works, but users feel neglected – we lost through services even to Edinburgh Park during the Newbridge engineering operations and when can we have the Sunday service that seemed on offer when the route opened in 2002?
A4 :  When there is disruption in the Waverley area, we may regrettably have to turn services back short of their destination so as to restore punctuality in the shortest possible time. Edinburgh Park offers limited capacity for terminating trains, and with Newbridge Jn out of use we had no alternative but to reduce the Crossrail to a Newcraighall-Waverley shuttle during the engineering operations. The proposed Sunday service fell through due to the withdrawal of developer funding, and while we liaise closely with Transport Scotland on possible timetable developments we are not aware that this issue is seen as a high priority. We shall ensure that signs at Haymarket Station show Platform 1 as the platform for trains to Brunstane and Newcraighall from 15 December

Q5 (JMcR) : Performance of services at Dalgety Bay has deteriorated, while fares have gone up, can we at least have more accurate JourneyCheck information to show whether a train has been cancelled or merely delayed?
A5 :  Our figures show a significant improvement over the last year, offset by the impact of the leaf-fall season only in recent weeks. During times of disruption, the JourneyCheck service may have to cope with a rapidly changing situation, but we shall seek clarification of JourneyCheck so that it tells customers sooner whether their service is to be cancelled or delayed. Passenger Focus comment : The annual fares increase of RPI + 1% is part of the franchise agreement which we do not believe to be sustainable.

Q6 (DWd) : Punctuality seems to be measured throughout the day, what if it’s the busiest trains that are the most often delayed?
A6 : Our performance figures are weighted to take account of that.

Q7 (DWd) : Sleeper customers are enjoying the new duvets, but what plans are there to replace the rolling stock and how can you address the variability in driving?
A7 : Sleeper services have been enjoying resurgence in demand. Our existing rolling-stock is permitted to continue in use until 2019, and thoughts are now turning to how it might then be renewed in order that this key service may continue to offer a sustainable means of travel between London and Scotland. Our traction-provider EWS (now to be known as DB Schenker) are willing to take away feedback on their performance, and we ensure that they encourage passenger driving techniques among their drivers.

Q8 (DWg) : Can customers at Sunday mornings awaiting Edinburgh-bound trains at Dalmeny be told whether or not their trains is to be diverted due to Forth Bridge single-line working into the northbound platform?
A8 :  We should be managing provision of information to our customers, particularly on occasions when the usual Sunday morning single-line working is not in force. We shall investigate why our Customer Services Centre have apparently not been telling customers at Dalmeny which platform they should use.

Q9 (DK) : The return of locomotive-hauled trains to the Fife Circle is welcome, why not make more use of these so as to address adhesion difficulties during the leaf-fall season?
A9 : The modern fleet that we now operate was for the most part inherited from the previous franchise-holder. Additional services commencing in December require more diesel rolling-stock than we could obtain from our normal sources, so we have had to have recourse to a locohauled train. This is slower and less flexible than modern multiple-units, whose sanding equipment is being modified to improve performance, so will be used only until more multiple-units become available. Other possible solutions such as High Speed Trains do not feature in our plans because their extra cost would reduce the funding available for other investment. The new trains that we have on order are electric ones improve capacity on Ayrshire and Inverclyde routes and  provide for the Airdrie-Bathgate reopening and for possible further electrification of the existing network.

Q10 (WS) : What timetable improvements are planned for 2009 and thereafter?
A10 :  Subject to Transport Scotland approval, for December 2009 we are looking at Glasgow-Kilmarnock becoming half-hourly and introduction of a new semifast service between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh via Shotts.  December 2010 may see the Airdrie-Bathgate reopening. Acceleration of the Inverness-Edinburgh route would require an upgrading of the infrastructure that might emerge from the Scottish Government’s current Strategic Transport Projects Review.

Q11 (DS) : Services at Aberdour have improved in recent years, but when there have to be cancellations why not take greater account of people at smaller stations who may be left waiting up to an hour for the next available service?
A11 : Disruption management  is a key area for improvement in this franchise, The flexibility of our response can however be inhibited by limitations on traincrew or rolling-stock availability.

Q12 (TH) : Why were the Newbridge engineering operations timed to coincide with the Glasgow but not the Edinburgh holidays and the Scotland v Norway football match?
A12 :  We do try to take account of school holidays when engineering works are being planned, but the rail industry’s lead time is longer than that for the planning of sporting fixtures. There may be lessons to be learned from the Newbridge experience. Passenger Focus had asked Network Rail for a change of date on becoming aware of the difficulties, but were advised that this was now too late.

Q13 (TH) ; Concerned about loss of Kirkcaldy calls in Edinburgh-Aberdeen services, why could these not be retained on a pick-up only basis?
A13 : Transport Scotland's remit was to improve journey times and increase capacity. In such circumstances it is unlikely that everyone is going to be pleased with the outcome, but a survey showed only 2 passengers on average joining trains at Kirkcaldy for Aberdeen. The greatest benefit of not stopping at Kirkcaldy is for the end-to-end journey-time. The Minister has told Parliament that we shall try address the complaints about the retiming of Kirkcaldy-Dundee journey-opportunities and about a gap in Markinch departures for Edinburgh in the May timetable.

Q14 (MR) : Why not bring back First Class on the West Highland Lines?
A14 : We are taking a look with Transport Scotland at how we might enhance our offering on tourist routes.

Q15 (WR) : West Calder’s Sunday service is very limited and slow, and can’t weekday services be better spread so as to fill gaps and give a later last train from Edinburgh?
A15 : We shall look at running a later last train from Edinburgh in association with introduction of the new daytime semifast service between Edinburgh and Glasgow Central via Shotts. Network Rail are reluctant to give up engineering time, but we are working behind the scenes with them towards a 24/7 railway which may entail longer possessions at times of least demand. Passenger Focus totally agree with calls for the times of last trains out of Edinburgh to be brought into line with those elsewhere in Scotland.

Q16 (WR) : Why does Glasgow Central announce front train/last train, yet at Waverley people are left waiting in the cold until the front train has departed?
A16 ;:  We shall take a look at whether it might be possible to open the doors of the rear train while there is still one awaiting departure in front of it.

Q17 (WR): Why are ontrain announcements excessively intrusive?
A17 : It is a statutory requirement that we make announcements, but complaints about excessive volume have been usually about Class 170s, not the Class 156s seen on the Shotts route.

Q18 (WR) : Shotts Line stations have shortcomings - Livingston South’s platforms are too narrow for wheelchairs while at West Calder could additional carparking be provided by converting the old goods yard?
A18 : The platform widths at Livingston South are as inherited from the promoters of the station’s opening 25 years ago, and significant improvement might require its complete rebuilding. Transport Scotland are looking at their strategy for carpark development, but it is not known that West Calder features there.

Q19 (GE) : Might the East Coast Main Line look forward to return of Sleepers and a local service?
A19 ; Transport Scotland are looking at options for a local service to Dunbar, and will be involving us as required - a key issue may be where the additional rolling-stock is to come from. The routing of Sleeper services is a matter for Network Rail. We are happy to see these trains regularly using the East Coast when the West Coast is unavailable, but Network Rail might be reluctant to put them onto the East Coast permanently once they've completed their West Coast Route Modernisation.

Q20 (JMcD) : Might operations be altered at Pitlochry to enable northbound trains not crossing another service there on the single line to use the nearside platform?
A20 ; The Highland Main Line awaits infrastructure investment. Enabling northbound trains to use the nearside platform at Pitlochry could require costly expenditure on resignalling.

Q21 (J McD) : In the new timetable the daily Kirkcaldy-Glasgow direct service runs empty from Perth, might it call at Markinch?
A21 : We would consider such an extension when reviewing contents of future timetables with Transport Scotland.

Q22 (VF) :  Conductors know about the West Lothian concessionary fare to Edinburgh but many seem unaware that  the scheme also includes Glasgow?
A22 : Concessionary fares schemes are individually specified by particular Councils. We shall rebrief our conductors that the West Lothian scheme extends to Glasgow.

Q23 (DP) : Many stations in England seem to have more frequent announcements than in Scotland, could we now have a similar availability of automated announcements on Scottish stations please?
A23 : We have automated the announcements to stations from our Customer Services Centre, and have successfully introduced RNIB React signage at stations including Camelon, Larbert, Brunstane and Kirkcaldy.

Q24 (DP) : Could the proposed limited stop timetable between Edinburgh and Glasgow Central via Shotts include some through running to and from Dumfries or Stranraer?
A24 : We shall pass this suggestion to our train planners for their consideration.

Q25 (MG) : Could there be more systematic strengthening of late-night services whose present coverage for events such as the Radiohead concert seem a bit hit and miss?
A25 : We do a lot of strengthening trains for special events, but admit that we have occasionally missed some and always welcome feedback to help improve our consistency.

Q26 (NS) : How do you take forward service development with other players in the industry?
A26 : We are a franchise, so have to work closely with the longer-term players Transport Scotland and Network Rail, going to them with ideas on where they might direct their expenditure for the benefit of our customers.

Transport Scotland seeks our advice on how best to accommodate new stations and services, having regard for the impact on journey-times and network capacity.

Conclusion
Thanking everyone for their input, Robert Samson urged passengers to comment to train operators on instances of good or bad performance, and if they were not satisfied with the response to take the matter up with Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel: 08453 022 022, email : info@passengerfocus.org.uk or by post to Freepost RRRE-ETTC-LEET, PO Box 4257, Manchester M60 3AR.

Adding his thanks, Steve Montgomery said that First ScotRail sought constant feedback and saw customer forums as usefully complementing other means of engagement including Meet the Manager sessions. Those issues for which it had not been possible to give a full answer would be pursued until every point had been resolved. Any further queries for First ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com

Milngavie Customer Forum

FRASER CENTRE MILNGAVIE FROM 1830 ON TUESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 2008


Present
James King, Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus in the chair                        
16 members of the public including Des McNulty, MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie, and East Dunbartonshire Councillor Bill Binks.
Mary Grant, First ScotRail Managing Director, Steve Montgomery, Operations and Safety Director and Deputy Managing Director, Peter Williams, Commercial Director and other First ScotRail representatives

Introduction:
Welcoming everyone to the forum, James King explained his role as the Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. He said the Customer Forum allowed Passenger Focus, the independent, statutory watchdog body to work with First ScotRail and for both to hear what people had to say.  He thanked all for attending.
Introducing her team, Mary Grant stressed the evening was to hear views and suggestions and if questions could not be answered immediately, every point would be followed up as necessary.
Questions and answers (questioners’ initials shown in brackets):

Q1 (MB): Is a halt at Allander feasible?
A1: There has to be a business case in terms of volume. It is not possible to progress just any scheme. Our franchise is flexible and includes a generic clause to support and develop Scotland’s railways. This is very much a piece of work which would have to be agreed with Transport Scotland - We are interested in expanding the network and growing communities.

Q2 (DMcN): There are a number of things which have been frustrating about an Allander halt. There was constant underestimation of the success of a Larkhall-Milngavie line, which is a real alternative for commuters. There is a good case for a halt. It just seems there are too many players – it seems impossible to get all in a room and say ‘can we do this or not?’ A clear, definitive answer is required rather than just a project people talk about.
A2:  Allander is on the single-track section, and inserting calls there would disrupt performance unless the project to build a station included the cost of double track. The resultant cost would have to be weighed up by Transport Scotland against the benefit of getting people out of their cars.


Q3 (NP): There is real concern that rail travel causes car congestion. If there was to be a halt, there has to be a large car park. Did First ScotRail play any part in the A81 upgrade which did encourage people to go by rail rather than car?
A3: Transport Scotland has responsibility for roads and rail. Milngavie is a classic commuter town, with growing demand and congestion. We support the growing demand, and are in discussion with Transport Scotland on capacity for channelling traffic in different directions.


Q4 (RW): Hillfoot has a good service – four trains an hour. But there is no link with buses. Why is there no proper integration between the two?
A4: Buses tend to serve different markets from rail, and tend to be more focussed on short local journeys, with operators planning their services around these priorities. Integrated ticketing options, such as Strathclyde Zonecard, are available to passengers who need to use both modes to complete their journey, and we look to improve transport integration wherever possible. We have not been aware of particular issues at Hillfoot. – but the issue was subsequently referred to First Glasgow, who have kindly provided the comment below in italics.

Trains from Hillfoot to the city are generally on the hour and every 15min thereafter, with trains arriving from the city three minutes later throughout the day. Citybound buses on our service 109/119, offering links from Baljaffray, Castlemains and the Craigton Road area are scheduled to pass Hillfoot station at approximately nine minutes before trains depart for Glasgow throughout most of the day, allowing adequate time to reach the station and buy a ticket if required. It is, however, accepted that co-ordination between train and bus times is not as good for return trips to Milngavie. This is a matter which could be examined with a view to achieving an improvement.
The location of Hillfoot rail station is not particularly conducive to developing formal interchange between trains and existing bus services. It may not be possible for the full-size buses used on our existing Milngavie services to use the station access road owing to the presence of parked cars and Post Office vans in connection with the nearby sorting office. That said, we will see what is possible.

Q5 (JW): Expressed concern over full parking in Milngavie, Bearsden, Hillfoot, and Westerton and asked if it was possible to get a station at Mains estate.
A5: We do not believe that such a station can be on the agenda in the next seven years due to other major schemes. More viable would be to look at more car parking, which is a serious agenda item.

James King commented that the fastest decline in satisfaction in categories in the National Passenger Survey is car parking. Car parks are filling up half way through the morning peak, meaning people cannot use trains off peak. It is a major issue.

Q6 (AE): Why could there not be better bus service links for short journeys by car, leaving the parking space for longer car journeys?
A6: We shall speak to the Managing director of First Glasgow and get back to the forum (note: comments from First Glasgow in italics below)

Hillfoot Station is included within the area covered by SPT’s local Ring’n’Ride service, as are Milngavie, Bearsden and Westerton stations. It is therefore possible for pre-booked trips to be made from Milngavie/Bearsden to or from any of these stations. Subject to demand, this service is available from 07.00 until 18.00hrs on Mondays to Saturdays.

It is understood that this service has increased in popularity in recent years but still has spare capacity in terms of slots available to accommodate additional trips. With a new service being started by another operator next month linking Anniesland and various parts of Bearsden, this spare capacity may increase then if that new service can cater for some of the trips made at present on the Ring’n’Ride facility, as seems probable.

Further details of the service, conditions governing its use and scope for it to be used for bus/rail interchange purposes, will be available from SPT at Consort House, 12 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1 HN.

Q7 (RMcK): Predicted objections to multi-storey car parks. Why could there not be mini -buses linked from housing estates to stations?
A7: Integration is part of our franchise pledge. We shall take a look at the possibility of trialling a shuttle service to connect outlying carparks with the station. James King advised attendees to provide locations for a shuttle service.  Note : comment from First Glasgow in italics below.

Given that there has apparently been a relatively limited take-up for the subsidised Ring’n’Ride service, it is unlikely that there is a commercial opportunity for the provision of  a wholly local bus route within the Milngavie/Bearsden area, with an emphasis on providing for trips to and from the various rail stations.

However, First Glasgow would wish to be involved in any discussions regarding the introduction of a trial shuttle bus service to/from any rail station in the area, subject to an element of external funding to kick-start or underwrite it. We would also be happy to develop proposals on this basis, once relevant areas for a shuttle service have been identified.  

Q8 (JW): Told of difficulties renewing his monthly travel pass due to ticket office being closed or machine not working.
A8:A monthly season can be renewed at a booking office or online, but not at a Ticket Vending Machine.  Prior to any smartcard rollout, there are potential developments in online purchase of monthlies being considered for early implementation which would improve the process of renewing season tickets.

Q9 (EG): As a regular traveller between Partick and Milngavie, I am very satisfied overall with services - but why are there no multi-journey, unlimited time tickets?
A9: We do have a Flexipass, a 10-journey ticket available for 30 days on some routes. To prevent fraud, the routes require to have ticket gates at one end of the journey. We are keen to introduce Flexipasses, but do not have the gating required. We are progressing a scheme which will see a gating system around the centre of Glasgow, and would need such investment at Glasgow Central to make flexipasses practicable.

Q10 (NP): I understand there are plans for lifts at Hyndland?
A10: Hyndland was recently added to the UK Government’s £370m Access for All scheme. There will now be a feasibility study into possible options.

Q11 (VB): Told of late night train cancellations and asked about the consistency of services. Also told of a two-hour delay on a train “with lack of communications.”
A11: Very few trains are cancelled on the route – the most reliable in Scotland. Failures to inform customers on reasons for delays or cancellations are inexcusable and no-one should be left distressed on trains or feeling they had been “dumped” at a station. There s no excuse for lack of information on trains.

James King urged all passengers to write to First ScotRail, as it would provide intelligence about travel issues that the operator might not be aware of. Passengers also had a right of appeal to Passenger Focus, although he was pleased to say there were very few appeals involving First ScotRail when compared with passenger numbers.

Q12 Why can Edinburgh Festival trains not run later at night?
A12 Network Rail need access to the track at night, but First ScotRail provide a midnight Edinburgh-Glasgow every night of the Festival and an 0030 at weekends. We recognise the need to move to “a seven-day railway,” and have introduced additional late-night trains on Fridays to Milngavie and other destinations out of Glasgow.

Q13 More space on trains please for wheelchairs, buggies, bikes and luggage.
A13 Older trains preceded modern requirements, but future-build trains will look at optimising such provision. First ScotRail have modified some of its fleets, and such improvements remain on the agenda.

Conclusion
Thanking everyone for their input, James King urged passengers to comment to train operators on instances of good or bad performance, and if they were not satisfied with the response to take the matter up with Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel: 08453 022 022 or by post to Freepost WA1521 Warrington WA4 6GP.

Many interesting issues had been raised, and he commended the comments on car-parking and the suggestion of shuttle buses.

Mary Grant said those who attended were clearly passionate about their train services and thanked everyone for their input, thoughts and feedback designed to make services better. There was room for improvement and big issues to be tackled, such as car parking.

Those issues for which it was not possible to give a full answer would be pursued until every point had been resolved. Any further queries for First ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com
John Yellowlees, External Relations Manager  24 November 2008
Copies: those present + apologies requesting sight

Stirling Customer Forum

The Golden Lion Hotel, Stirling Thursday 29 May 2008

Present

  1. James King, Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus    
  2. 14 members of the public including Eric Guthrie, Director Tactran
  3. Mary Grant First ScotRail Managing Director
  4. Steve Montgomery Operations and Safety Director and Deputy MD
  5. Kenny Scott Engineering Director
  6. Peter Williams Commercial Director and other First ScotRail representatives

Introduction:

Welcoming everyone to the forum, James King commended First ScotRail for their enlightened attitude to engagement with their customers, and explained that his role as the Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. Introducing her team, Mary Grant said that First ScotRail would be following up as necessary every point raised.

Questions and answers (questioners’ initials shown in brackets):

Q1 (NG): As a daily commuter between Gleneagles and Dundee, it is evident that use of the trains is increasing – when will they be able to call at Blackford, and can we have longer trains and a better fares structure?
A1: We shall be pleased to help Tactran broker a meeting to sign off their proposed study into a potential additional hourly Arbroath-Glasgow service. that could call at intermediate locations not currently served by the Aberdeen-Glasgow expresses. The Scottish Government are supporting expansion of the network, which is experiencing strong passenger growth across the country. The opportunity is continuously sought for additional trains, but at present none of any suitable design is known to be available for use. We envisage no across-the-board fares reduction, but increases are capped in accordance with a regime set by the franchise that has seen a light touch, with no increase above the Retail Price Index plus one percentage-point in two years. First ScotRail are the first operator to provide for kids to go free on all weekday offpeak journeys, and it is hoped to trial smart ticketing so as to introduce a more flexible pricing structure.

Q2 (BY): For a passenger travelling between Bridge of Allan and Chatelherault, why should it be much cheaper to book at Glasgow than to buy the through fare?
A2:  The Bridge of Allan-Chatelherault fare involves two legs - Bridge of Allan-Glasgow that was historically set by ScotRail and Glasgow-Chatelherault set by the old Strathclyde PTE. We are seeking to address the anomalies that we have inherited as a result of this split, but have to work within the framework of fares regulation.

Q3 (BY): Why can’t more be done to help passengers affected by cancellations at Bridge of Allan, eg when the 0928 Dunblane-Edinburgh has to be cancelled could the following 0847 Dundee-Glasgow call additionally there?
A3: The number of part-cancellations between Stirling and Dunblane has reduced since completion of the Waverley upgrading, and we should like to see it come down still further We have investigated this suggestion but have had to conclude that there could be an unacceptable knock-on effect on performance of services into Glasgow Queen Street which is likely to become even busier in the coming years. When the Customer Services Centre see passengers awaiting a cancelled service they should arrange a taxi – if they have not done so, you can contact them via the platform Help Point.

Q4 (JMK): Delighted at the new service to Alloa, but dismayed that passengers should have to wait at Stirling for a ticket to get through the barriers. When can a Ticket Vending Machine be installed please and why can’t conductors sell tickets while the train is sitting at Alloa?
A4: Pending installation of a Ticket Vending Machine at Alloa in the next few weeks, we are providing additional Ticket Examiners on trains between Alloa and Stirling. We are also encouraging conductors to sell tickets during the turnround at Alloa and shall continue to monitor the situation for passengers from Alloa alighting at Stirling once the TVM is in operation.

Q5 (JMK): Can the 2318 Queen Street-Stirling be extended to Alloa so as to recreate the opportunity of long ago for Clackmannanshire residents to go to the theatre in Glasgow and return home by train?
A5: This train currently terminates at Stirling because to take it forward to Alloa could impinge on the time allowed by Network Rail for conducting essential overnight maintenance. Account would have also to be taken of any effect on crewing costs, but we shall be happy to investigate.

Q6 (JMK): What prospects are there for reopening the intermediate stations at Causewayhead and Cambus?
A6: The business case for the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine Railway supported only a station at Alloa, and the first priority has been to get the end-to-end line open. It would now be open to Tactran and Sestran respectively to promote with Transport Scotland stations at Causewayhead and Cambus, and we understand that with Sestran’s support a study has been conducted for Clackmannanshire Council into the case for a new station at Cambus.

Q7 (LS): Flexipasses are useful for the regular but not daily commuter from Stirling to Glasgow and Edinburgh, could these be extended to Alloa please?
A7: We shall be pleased to introduce new Flexipass fares between Alloa and both Glasgow and Edinburgh with effect from 7 September.

Q8 Could the train forming the 2218 Queen Street-Alloa that at present runs back unadvertised afterwards to Stirling become a public service so as to offer a connection into the Sleeper?
A8: Given that this train runs anyway as empty stock, we shall be pleased to investigate its possible conversion to an advertised service.

Q9 (BY): Likewise could another train that also comes back empty from Dunblane call at Bridge of Allan so as to pick up passengers wanting to board the Sleeper which calls at Dunblane and Stirling but not at their local station?
A9:  It is likely that with the development of expanded services and facilities across the network, the present pattern of empty-stock workings will alter in the coming years - and we should not like to introduce any additional services that we later had to discontinue.

Q10 (BY): The 1723 Stirling-Glasgow starts at Dunblane only on Saturdays, thereby leaving on other days a two-hour gap for travellers from Bridge of Allan to Glasgow. Could this be filled by allowing an unadvertised train that passes through to stop and pick up passengers?
A10: The timings are simply too tight to be practicable since the train has to be back in Glasgow to form another peak-time working.

Q11 (BY): Bridge of Allan now has a Sunday service to Edinburgh but not to Glasgow, could this be addressed by extending the Queen Street-Cumbernauld service to Dunblane?
A11: Our introduction of an hourly local service on Sundays between Glasgow and Stirling in December 2007 was in recognition that over the years train services had failed to keep pace with changing lifestyles. There will undoubtedly be further expansion in the coming years, but we doubt that the business on offer at Bridge of Allan could yet justify the significant cost of this extension. We shall however review demand for Sunday services to and from Stirling to identify any opportunities for future service enhancements.

Q12 (NG): Gleneagles Station needs some tender loving care, could you at least unblock the gutters?
A12: We have arranged for the gutters and downpipe to be cleared at the end of July, and recognise that the station’s status may benefit from the 2014 Ryder Cup. We should welcome any interest by community groups in occupying at a nominal rent the accommodation there that is surplus to our requirements.

Q13 (SC): The Vale of Carron Rotary Club are delighted to adopt Larbert Station by undertaking gardening, in return could you please tackle the dirt and fright caused by pigeons in the overbridge, light-heads in the carpark that has been fixed the wrong way and a build-up of litter and grass not being cut in the new carpark?
A13: We welcome Vale of Carron Rotary’s commitment to Larbert, and shall be pleased to investigate these issues. We are pursuing the provision of netting to deter pigeons from roosting on the bridge. Litter, uncut grass and a double-headed light fixed at the wrong way at the bus turning circle are outwith our lease areas, so we have referred them to Falkirk Council.

Q14 (JG): What improvement can you offer to disabled travellers at stations such as Gleneagles?
A14: Large investments to secure stepfree access are a matter for Transport Scotland to prioritise and fund, and given the relatively low footfall there it would be unrealistic to suppose that Gleneagles could be an early candidate. However, where a passenger seeks assistance to use any station that is inaccessible, we are obliged to provide a taxi from or to the nearest one that has stepfree access.

Q15 Can provision be improved for conveyance of luggage on your trains?
A15: We are reviewing the internal design of our new trains so as to ensure that there is sufficient provision of luggage racks.

Q16 (GP): The 0721 Stirling-Glasgow used to set out from the covered Platform 6, but now that it starts at Alloa it comes through the exposed Platform 9 – could we have either covered waiting accommodation there or else a return to Platform 6?
A16: At that time there is now an empty train en route to Alloa in Platform 6, and the signalling does not allow them to be swapped over. We shall continue to progress with Stirling Council our application for consent to provide a waiting shelter on Platform 9. 

Q17 (FS): Your £1M community fund is welcome, but surely it won’t last long when local groups start to engage with you on ideas for reusing vacant space at your stations?
A17: The new budget is an exceptionally positive development, and until we have been able to assess the level of interest we shall not know how many projects we may be able to fund.

Q18 (JMK): When I tried to buy a ticket from Alloa to London, why did I find that Virgin were willing to sell me tickets only between stations served by their trains?
A18: A through fare between Alloa and London is maintained by National Express East Coast. Virgin as an impartial retailer should sell any inter-available ticket regardless of whether or not their services call at the stations in question.

Q19 (JMK): Kids Go Free and Club 55 are both very welcome, but on the latter would I be able to travel into Glasgow in time to connect for the 0821 and 0851 departures to the West Highlands?
A19: Regrettably no such dispensation can be granted since a time-of-day restriction is necessary to protect commuters into Glasgow. Club 55 remains a great deal, which is of course available anytime at weekends.

Q20 (JK): When I bought a ticket today from North Berwick to Alloa, why did it still say that I had to complete the journey by bus?
A20: This arose because the Ticket Vending Machine was then awaiting its periodic update correcting the position. There have been no ticket issues from any of our TVMs to Alloa bus in subsequent weeks.

Q21 (LS): Could we please have a stand for the “Metro” newspaper at Alloa Station?
A21: We shall pursue a stand for the “Metro” newspaper at Alloa. We are also arranging for provision of additional copies of the newspaper at other stations including Stirling and Larbert.

Q22 (BY): Instead of the blanket rule on travel before 0915 that discriminates against travellers from different stations catching the same train, can First ScotRail adapt the provision formerly found in SE England that offpeak fares were not valid on trains arriving in central London before 1000?
A22: ATOC have advised that how we manage demand is a matter for us, but fares simplification to produce rules that are easily understood by customers and staff alike is a key consideration of present policy. We shall continue to review the current fares range, including restrictions, with the aim of offering the best value fares at times when we have spare capacity.

Q23 (NG): Can we please have a fares giveaway like the very cheap fares seen on low-cost airlines and the adoption of their other practices where these might benefit rail travel?
A23: It is unrealistic to suppose that the rail industry would be able to offer bargains at rock-bottom prices comparable with those seen on some airlines. However bargain berths online offer very good deals. We now offer internet discounts for purchases with a 16-25 Railcard, and are pressing our service-provider the.trainline.com to improve functionality with a view to allowing overseas ticket purchases through the website. The duration of time that it takes to make a phone-booking is monitored under our Service Level Agreement with the operator of our Customer Contact Centre, where more staff are being trained up to handle such bookings.

Conclusion

Thanking everyone for their input, James King urged passengers to comment to train operators on instances of good or bad performance, and if they were not satisfied with the response to take the matter up with Passenger Focus at http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/ tel: 08453 022 022 or by post to Freepost WA1521 Warrington WA4 6GP.

Complaints in Scotland were lower than in other parts of Britain, which was a testimony to Passenger Focus’s productive relationship with First ScotRail and Transport Scotland. He advised passengers to buy ahead as much as they could - which in Passenger Focus’s view they should not have to do, but that was the way of the present railway. Given the large number of excellent issues posed at this forum for further consideration, he hoped that First ScotRail might be able to give an early indication of their likely reaction to these.

Undertaking that First ScotRail would circulate an initial response by Friday 6 June, Mary Grant pledged that those issues for which it was not possible to give a full answer would be pursued until every point had been resolved. She had been pleased by the number and range of issues raised, and while delighted by the success of Alloa had shared the disappointment that due to lack of a TVM, passengers arriving at Stirling had found themselves to queue to get through the ticket gates for up to twice as long as the journey had taken. She was grateful to everyone for taking the time to attend the forum, and urged all to speak to members of her team should they ever meet on a train. Any further queries for First ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com


John Yellowlees, External Relations Manager, 10 July 2008
Copies: those present + apologies requesting sight

North Berwick Customer Forum

Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick, Wednesday 26 September 2007

Present

  1. James King, Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus
  2. 24 members of the public including Cllr David Berry, East Lothian Council
    Steve Montgomery, Operations and Safety Director and Deputy Managing Director
  3. Fiona Irvine, Human Resources Director
  4. Peter Williams, Commercial Director other First ScotRail representatives

Introduction

Welcoming the First ScotRail team to the third customer forum to be held since 2005 at North Berwick, James King commended them for their enlightened attitude to engagement with their customers and explained that his role as the Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus ensured the independence of the forum’s chairmanship. Apologising for the unavoidable absence of MD Mary Dickson and also Engineering Director Kenny Scott (who had an engagement at Inverness), Steve Montgomery said that First ScotRail had welcomed the constructive feedback at previous forums in North Berwick and hoped that customers would recognise that there had been improvements to the service.

Q1 (CM): When will the peak-hour through services to Haymarket resume?
A1: With effect from the start of the winter timetable on Monday 10 December.

Q2 (JK) : Will the 0649 ex-North Berwick revert to 0645 so as to make a connection into the 0730 Waverley-Queen Street?
A2: The train will still start at 0649 but will now connect with the 0730 Edinburgh-Glasgow at Haymarket (where there is a 5-minute connectional allowance) arriving 0724 at Haymarket from where the 0730 departs from the same platform at 0733.

Q3 (JI) : What can be done to reduce queuing at the North Berwick Ticket Vending Machine, for example by enabling it to sell tickets in the evening for travel the following day?
A3: First ScotRail are on a learning experience with our TVMs, the first 20 of which arrived in 2004 but their number has grown to 115 in 2007. We are working closely with the German manufacturer to resolve issues that have arisen with software protection and during several outages when no service was available. During the last six weeks there has been a marked improvement in reliability, with the number of transactions now rising each week. On the issue of passengers queuing to buy offpeak tickets for the 0920 train, we have invited conductors to show flexibility since it is not the customer’s fault if the person in front is learning how to use the machine. We are now evaluating with Transport Scotland the justification for installing a second TVM which, if approved, could be in place at North Berwick by April 2008. We are also investigating scope for pre-booking, and are trialling at North Berwick additional signage to help customers understand how to operate the machines, including what ticket-types they do and do not sell.

Q4 (AM) : What can be done to prevent a recurrence of the behaviour of a conductor who on being told that the TVM had debited my account without giving me a ticket tried to charge me the full fare, then phoned the British Transport Police to meet me at Waverley?
A4: We agree that such behaviour was unacceptable, and have made this very clear to the member of staff in question, a ticket examiner whom we have re-briefed on the correct procedure for assisting customers when there is an issue with the TVM.

Q5 (CM and GR): What can be done about teenage fare-dodgers, especially in the evenings when some conductors prefer to stay in their cabs until after Prestonpans?
A5: We have a franchise obligation to measure revenue protection, and shall examine conductors' machines so as to be able to take up with the staff concerned their reluctance to sell tickets on late-night trains leaving Edinburgh. (Note: Prints from conductors’ machines have been examined and do not suggest a pattern of reluctance to issue tickets since the statistics show a pretty consistent issue stream from Edinburgh onwards - however we are carrying out further spot checks.)

Q6 (JGB): Are there any plans for TVMs to sell East Lothian Council concessionary fares?
A6 : We are in contact with all local authorities having concessionary rail schemes, and are seeking to address their concern to ensure that uptake of their tickets would be subject to appropriate audit.

Q7 (DB): Why can't the TVM at North Berwick sell tickets to popular destinations such as Edinburgh Park?
A7: Many other destinations are available in addition to the top twenty listed on the front of the Machine, which now include Edinburgh Park.

Q8 (JK): Why can't conductors sell a PlusBus ticket to Haymarket, where the automatic gates won't accept an Edinburgh PlusBus ticket?
A8: Conductors are briefed about PlusBus, which is valid to Haymarket as well as to Waverley. We have sought further information on acceptance of PlusBus tickets by our gating supplier but understand that much work would have to be done to allow them to go through the gates without triggering error codes – meanwhile where customers have problems going through automatic gates, they should use the manual gate.

Q9 (CF): Why can't I buy a Cheap Day Return on board the train?
A9: Our Buy Before You Board policy enforces an existing condition in the National Conditions of Carriage that where a ticket-issuing facility is available, only full fares may be sold on board the train. It is in everyone’s interests that we should address revenue protection in this way, ensuring equity for those who have made the effort to buy beforehand while minimising the call on taxpayer support.

Q10 (LJ): Could a second TVM be located conveniently for passengers entering from the other end of the platform?
A10: Yes, since our intention would be to install a second TVM while removing the old building and replacing the shelter alongside it.

Q11 (ES): Isn't your revenue protection policy aimed at charging people more than they should be paying?
A11: The majority of customers are honest in their intention to pay their fare, and making them buy their ticket beforehand helps the conductor to get through the train, checking tickets and answering requests for information. There is a franchise obligation to collect the revenue that is due to us, but we recognise that the position at North Berwick originates from longstanding custom and practice that for many years tickets were always bought on the train and want to ensure that our staff are able to deliver the appropriate consistency of service.

Q12 (PM): When a train has to be cancelled, why can't I travel free on a First bus?
A12: Although part of First Group, each First bus company is a separate entity - as such, they would require re-imbursement for carrying rail passengers at times of disruption, and must be mindful of the impact of an influx of extra people on their own customers and markets. In making alternative arrangements, First ScotRail must also bear in mind that it cannot treat a First bus company more favourably than other bus companies, because of undertakings given to the Competition Commission. Overall, the best way of managing disruption to rail services is usually to procure dedicated rail replacement transport.

Q13 (JF): Can you put Drem Station into a fit condition for Gullane Community Council to be able to adopt it?
A13: Having been advised by East Lothian Council that repainting in our standard colours would require both planning and listed building consent, we shall now pursue with Network Rail the repainting of Drem in its present colours, at the same time making necessary repairs. We shall also investigate reopening of the locked-up waiting room so as to give passengers an enclosed space to wait in when trains have to be turned round there. The station footbridge is the responsibility of Network Rail, to whom we shall make known the Community Council’s concern about its rusty condition. We are tidying up the flowerbeds in the hope that the Community Council or another group may be willing to adopt them.

Q14 (CH): Why not an offpeak flexipass available from the TVM?
A14: Flexipasses offer a discount on the peak fare so as to offer value and convenience to the commuter who does not travel every day in both directions. We shall continue to work on the customer-friendliness of our TVMs so that they can offer a good service of Cheap Day Returns to customers travelling in the offpeak.

Q15 (DB): Can you review the flexipass discount from North Berwick since a better deal is available from other stations such as Stirling?
A15: The North Berwick flexipass offers a discount of over 10% compared with 10 single tickets, which is what we promise to provide. We acknowledge that the level of the flexipass discount varies across the network, and are working to align this over a period of time.

Q16 (CF): Could the existing flexipass be made valid for two months?
A16: Given that a flexipass is a discounted product valid for a discrete number of journeys, a month is an appropriate period of validity in order to offer flexibility to the customer while allowing sufficient revenue protection.

Q17 (JMcC): Can the gates at Waverley and Haymarket be adjusted to ensure that they take East Lothian Council concessionary tickets?
A17: We shall seek to ensure that East Lothian Council concession tickets can work the gates at Waverley’s west end and at Haymarket.

Q18 (DD): Can there be through trains between North Berwick and Edinburgh Park or South Gyle?
A18: North Berwick is served by electric trains, but the routes through South Gyle and Edinburgh Park are currently not electrified. However service-patterns could be subject to revision by Transport Scotland since the Airdrie-Bathgate reopening would bring electric trains to Edinburgh Park (and the Transport Minister has since announced the intention to electrify through South Gyle in order that Glasgow-Edinburgh trains might call at Gogar for interchange with the tram to Edinburgh Airport).

Q19 (JI): Can door controls be fitted at every vestibule to prevent the conductor having to go to the back of the train at each stop?
A19: We have not received authority from Transport Scotland to make this investment, so shall have to continue working on the business case.

Q20 (RT): Can the station bins be emptied more regularly, and what is your policy about smoking on North Berwick Station?
A20: We shall address the emptying of bins for next summer. It would be for the Scottish Government to review their policy on smoking in such non-enclosed public spaces.

Q21 (TD and GR): With no seats on Platform 4 at Waverley, can't the doors on the 1837 and 2137 be opened for longer than as now a few minutes before departure time?
A21: We shall ask drivers to open train doors for more than the present few minutes before the departure of the 1837 and 2137 ex-Waverley

Q22 (TD): Have you any plans further to improve evening services so that they might run at 2137, then 2237 and 2337?
A22 : Departures later than 2307 have already been rejected by Network Rail since they need to conduct essential maintenance overnight – and running a 2237 would be unjustifiable when the last train is only 30 minutes later. Future operational issues are subject to review in the East Coast Route Utilisation Strategy on which Network Rail have recently held a consultation.

Q23 (GR): Can the present waiting time at Musselburgh in the 2137 be reduced to the standard pattern?
A23: This was a short-time issue to accommodate an access right to an empty-stock move soon after the train’s previous 2125 departure-time. From 10 December the train will assume the standard departure times from Musselburgh onwards.

Q24 (JGB): What plans are there to expand station carparking?
A24: Our scheme now on site at Prestonpans will provide an additional 69 spaces. A study on possible provision of an additional 50 spaces at Musselburgh is due shortly. SEStran have announced their intention to fund a park-and-choose site at Wallyford.

Q25 (LJ): Can the ontrain announcement which says that the 0758 terminates Waverley be corrected?
A25: We shall correct this announcement so as to make it clear that the 0758 continues to run through to Haymarket. From 19 November it will resume being a through service to Glasgow Central via Carstairs.

Q26 (LJ and IMcC): What can be done to remove the nasty high-pitched screech that comes over the trains' public address system?
A26: We are investigating this problem.

Q27 (DB) : Conductors seldom get through to the front coach, so why not provide an on-train ticket machine or other new technology?
A27: On-train TVMs have not found favour in Britain. The way ahead may lie instead with other new technology such as smartcards, which are now being mandated by the Department for Transport in all new franchises with a view to rolling them out Britain-wide.

Q28 (ES): What plans are there to improve Musselburgh for the arrival of Queen Margaret University?
A28: We have already introduced additional stops, and have been pleased to support Queen Margaret University’s roadshows at their previous campuses. (Note: A further 21 stations across Central Scotland, West Lothian and Fife are now offering season tickets to Musselburgh.)

Q29 (BM): Why not a flexipass fare between North Berwick and Prestonpans?
A29: Lack of robust revenue protection measures such as automatic ticket gates precludes us from offering flexipasses to and from intermediate stations.

Q30 (CD): Why can't we get FirstInSight on North Berwick trains?
A30: Copies are laid out on seats, but provision of a continuing supply must await fitting of display racks which will be forthcoming soon.

Q31 (GR) : Can't your revenue protection staff at Waverley's Platforms 8 and 9 be more flexibly deployed to sell tickets as well as check them?
A31: Our policy is that when there are many passengers arriving in need of tickets, these staff should divide into groups dealing with issuing as well as checking.

Q32 (GR): Will the next generation of trains be designed to a higher standard of comfort than the new 2:3 layout in the refurbished Class 322s?
A32: Our refurbishment did the best that we could to accommodate more seating within existing stock having regard to the constraint imposed by platform lengths. For the next generation Transport Scotland are likely to set a clearer specification including 2:2 seating. It seems likely that instead of having a dedicated fleet, North Berwick will be accommodated within a wider rolling-stock strategy that addresses the need for additional capacity and provision for new routes across our network.

Q33 (GS): Who should assist passengers with mobility difficulties off the train at Waverley?
A33: Where a customer has pre-booked assistance, s/he should be met by station staff at Waverley. Where assistance has not been booked, the conductor should phone ahead.

Q34 (CF): When is a train regarded as overloaded?
A34: Health and safety requirements address the standard of a train’s construction so that passengers shall be protected in the event of any mishap. They do not set a limit to the number of passengers that it may convey, which would be difficult to enforce given the walk-on character of rail transport.

Thanking everyone for their input, James King saw it as a tribute to the trains’ improving reliability that the main thrust of interest had moved on since the last customer forum to issues of ticketing and revenue protection. Passenger Focus’s relationship with First ScotRail and Transport Scotland was much more productive than south of border, and was testimony to both parties being willing to listen to them. He urged people to complain as such speaking-up gave the rail industry the intelligence that it needed to be able to work on issues. Passengers with any complaint which First ScotRail had been unable to resolve should always feel able to contact Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel: 08453 022 022 or by post: Freepost WA1521 Warrington WA4 6GP.

Expressing gratitude for Mr King’s independent chairmanship, Steve Montgomery said that First ScotRail would reflect on the lessons learned tonight, notably that while the improving performance had reduced concern about train-running issues, there was a clear need to enhance the availability and understanding of Ticket Vending Machines. Any further queries for First ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com

John Yellowlees
External Relations Manager
29 October 2007
john.yellowlees@firstgroup.com

Inverness Customer Forum

Royal Highland Hotel, Inverness, Wednesday 20 June 2007

Present:

James King, Scottish Board member of Passenger Focus

20 members of the public including local councillors and a representative of the Highland Railway Society, Highland Rail Partnership, HITRANS, Moray Council, and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Steve Montgomery, First ScotRail Deputy Managing Director and Director of Operations and Safety and members of the senior management team plus other First ScotRail representatives

Introduction

Welcoming everyone to the customer forum, James King said that Passenger Focus was the independent watchdog which looked after passenger interests. It was a critical friend of First ScotRail, and he would take away issues on the behalf of those attending. Steve Montgomery apologised for the absence of Mary Dickson, First ScotRail Managing Director. Customer forums were very important and First ScotRail always learned from them. Issues which could not be answered on the night would be addressed in due course.

Questions and answers (questioners’ initials shown in brackets)

Q1 (HW): What is your timescale for better services for cyclists, not only at Inverness but where you cannot book cycles on trains?

A1: We are working closely with cycling communities and organisations to meet their needs where possible. The road cycle van service between Inverness and the Far North has not been used to full capacity but will continue for this summer until the refurbished Class 158s are in place offering four cycle-spaces instead of the present two on each train.

Q2 (HW): What is being done at Inverness where problems arise for cyclists on southbound services?

A2: We shall review the current booking arrangement, which reflects use on some Inverness-Edinburgh/Glasgow services of an ex Hull Trains Class 170/3 train that, while otherwise well-suited to the route, can accommodate only 2 cycles.

Q3 (SB): Cycle capacity is insufficient when commuting between Aviemore and Kingussie. Rather than being declined a bike on the train, could an exception be made for one stop?

A3 We shall consider this request for a local, one-stop exemption.

Q4 (RA): Why is the fares structure not flexible - and why is there no “triangular ticket” for Inverness-Edinburgh-Glasgow and back?

A4: We shall give this further consideration from the passenger perspective to assess potential demand and to see whether we can devise a worthwhile addition to the ticketing structure when taking account of anomalies and revenue protection.

Q5 (WM): The 0645 south arrives in Perth four minutes after a train departs for Glasgow and we have to wait. There used to be a straight-through evening Glasgow-Elgin service but the last one is at 1612 and every other one has to change at Perth.

Why are people put on Platform 7 at Perth; why is there not an earlier arrival than 1415 in Glasgow on Sundays, and why does Edinburgh get preferential treatment?

A5: The 0645 is designed to provide as early a service as possible from Inverness, and has a 22-minute connection at Perth for Glasgow. The service-pattern is predominantly oriented towards Edinburgh so as to provide Perth-Edinburgh journey-opportunities and because of the same-station interchange available at Edinburgh with Anglo-Scottish operators. The main train northbound in the evening peak is now the 1736 Edinburgh-Inverness so as to balance the 0645 Inverness-Edinburgh. Sunday services have to take account of the need to undertake overnight engineering work on Saturday nights. Capacity is limited by the predominantly single-track Inverness-Perth stretch, but the Room for Growth study for HITRANS recommends provision of additional infrastructure to accommodate an hourly service and has been endorsed by the recent Route Utilisation Strategy which says “it is anticipated that a positive business case can be developed for infrastructure works and rolling stock improvements to allow the further acceleration of the service”. Passenger Focus will take up with Network Rail the platforming arrangements at Perth, where use of Platform 7 aids performance but involves a lengthy walk.

Q6 (RP): When will there be upgrades, with regard to comfort, on Inverness-Glasgow/Edinburgh services?

A6: We are in dialogue with Transport Scotland about possible rolling-stock options.

Q7 (AC): There are so many ticket options that they result in queuing as they are discussed at the booking office – and some mean you cannot travel until 0915.

A7: We try to get the right balance between supply, capacity and demand. Last year we introduced a new pricing strategy which clarified the long distance structure and was aimed at reducing crowding in peak. Value Advance tickets can be purchased up to 1800 on the day before travel, subject to availability. We also have Club 55, now running for extended periods in spring and autumn. Information on tickets is available from our customer contact centre and on our website as well as at booking offices. Inverness Station has a new ticket vending machines.

Q8 (AC): Why pay for a £20 Railcard when you can end up paying more, depending on time of ticket purchase?

A8: National Railcards give a one-third discount that is generally across the board. The Highland Railcard gives a 50% discount on local travel in the North and West Highlands.

Q9 (ML): Are you looking again at time restrictions on tickets introduced a year ago?

A9: Trialled in June last year in Dundee, a morning-peak restriction on the Saver fare was rolled out across the country in September and has proved successful in managing demand, with a Value Advance fare bookable subject to availability until 1800 on the eve of arrival. Passenger growth will continue and we need to have such a policy in place to manage this.

Q10 (GH): Are there plans to address First Class capacity issues?

A10: We recognise there are issues with the ex Hull Trains Class 170/3s, which is why six seats are reserved as an overflow area for offer of free refreshments and newspapers although tickets are downgraded to Standard Class because power points are not offered.

Q11 (RR): Why do ticket vending machines not allow you to pre-book tickets?

A11: We are talking to suppliers about upgrading of the software.

Q12 (unidentified): We have not had newspapers on Inverness-Glasgow services for 18 months.

A12: We shall investigate. Note : On the 2010 Inverness-Glasgow on 20 June, newspapers were available.

Q13 (unidentified): Will you restore a connection out of the 0920 Inverness-Glasgow from Perth to Edinburgh?

A13: We are looking with Transport Scotland at increasing the frequency of services between Perth and Edinburgh via Fife from December 2008, subject to availability of additional rolling-stock.

Q14 (SB): Are there plans to introduce WiFi on First ScotRail routes?

A14 : We are currently evaluating the likely costs and technology.

Q15 (ML): Why can I buy some tickets using my Senior Railcard but not my Highland Railcard?

A15: The Senior Railcard gives a discount nationally - whereas the Highland Railcard is confined to journeys on the North and West Highland Lines to make their services attractive to local residents.

Q16 (CT): Why do holders of the Senior Railcard get a further reduction of £2 on Club 55 but as a disabled card holder I do not?

A16: We can review for future rounds of Club 55.

Q17 (JA): Why are train toilets not robust and reliable?

A17: We are well aware of feedback from the National Passenger Survey showing a dip in customer satisfaction. There is a strict quality regime in place which can result in financial penalties unless we keep toilets presentable and supplied with water. We welcome reports of any faults to our customer contact centre, and are now completely renewing the toilets as part of the refurbishment of our Class 158 fleet used mainly on the Kyle, Far North and Inverness-Aberdeen routes. Passenger Focus would like to see the refurbishment extended to provision of Controlled Emission Toilets, on which we are in discussion about possible funding with Network Rail and Transport Scotland. Meanwhile we are working closely with Network Rail on track cleaning on a more regular basis, and are also putting signage on trains not to flush at stations.

Q18 (AC): Are trains departing before advertised times?

A18: The policy is that trains do not leave ahead of the advertised departure time. The cited example of a train reported to have left Montrose early is being pursued.

Q19 (AC): Can there be triangular tickets and a Value Advance single ticket option?
A19: See A4. We are looking at Value Advance single options as a possibility for the longer term.

Q20 (unidentified): Are there plans for Inverness Station?

A20: A feasibility study is being commissioned to consider a more attractive entrance, refurbished toilets, the relocation of left luggage, and new waiting facilities.

Q21 (unidentified): Are there plans for a box junction at Inverness Station to prevent parking at the turning circle?

A21: This is unlikely to be on our land, but we shall discuss the situation with Highland Council.

Q22 (unidentified): Can you make an effort to provide complaint forms on buses when these have to substitute for trains?

A22 : We shall look at the availability and distribution of forms. Customer contact details are on trains and at stations.

Q23 (CT): Can the timetable be revised so as get passengers to Glasgow before 1000?

A23 : See A5.

Conclusion:

Frank Roach said on behalf of the Highland Rail Partnership that there was now a consensus within and beyond the rail industry in favour of an Inverness-Edinburgh journey time of 2 hours 45 minutes, better rolling stock and hourly frequency. HRP were also working with Transport Scotland on the Invernet 2 proposal for additional Inverness-Elgin services and on scope for an additional 0710 Inverness-Aberdeen. On the cycle front, he was pleased with extra spaces on Class 158s but would like to see more cycles accepted on Highland Main Line services due to demand.

Mike Lunan, Friends of the Far North Line praised Class 158 refurbishment as a big step in the right direction, and believed that there was every reason to hope that passengers would view the improved toilets favourably. He wanted reinstatement of a passing loop at Lentran to improve journey times.

James King advised passengers to look at the Passenger Focus website for information on ticket types and savings. Passenger Focus’s relationship with First ScotRail and Transport Scotland was much more productive than south of border, and was testimony to both parties being willing to listen to them. A number of issues would be taken away and Passenger Focus would work with First ScotRail and Regional Transport Partnerships on such matters as integration, timetables, tourism promotions and concessionary tickets. He urged people to complain as such speaking-up gave the rail industry the intelligence that it needed to work on issues.

Passengers with any complaint which First ScotRail had been unable to resolve should always feel able to contact Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel : 08453 022 022 or by post : Freepost WA1521 Warrington WA4 6GP.

Steve Montgomery thanked the forum for so much feedback, and looked forward to being able to implement ideas emerging from the discussion. Any further queries for First ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com

Rhu Customer Forum

Rosslea Hall Hotel, Rhu, Wednesday 9 May 2007

Present:

James King, Scottish Board member of Passenger Focus

23 members of the public including a representative of Friends of the West Highland Lines and a representative of the Scottish Association of Public Transport
Steve Montgomery, First ScotRail Deputy Managing Director and Director of Operations and Safety and members of the senior management team plus other First ScotRail representatives

Introduction

Welcoming everyone to the customer forum, James King said that Passenger Focus was the independent watchdog which looked after passenger interests. First ScotRail was an enlightened organisation, with the forum allowing attendees and Passenger Focus to take up issues and First ScotRail to provide feedback. Steve Montgomery apologised for the absence of Mary Dickson, First ScotRail Managing Director. He said the forums allowed First ScotRail to engage with the community and its customers, but stressed to the audience that the evening was very much their own event. All issues which could not be answered on the night would be addressed in due course.

Questions and answers (questioners’ initials shown in brackets)

Q1 (PMc): Why do buses and trains leave at the same time – do the companies not talk to each other?

A1: We do a lot of work to integrate rail with other modes of transport. We attend the meetings of Strathclyde Passenger Transport, who can promote a requirement for supported bus services that they should link up with trains. Such provision cannot extend to services that are provided commercially, but at our invitation SPT have kindly taken up with Wilsons of Rhu and Garelochhead Minibuses the issue of buses that are booked to leave Helensburgh for Coulport just as trains are arriving from Glasgow in the hope that their departure times can be reviewed against our summer timetable which runs from 20 May through to 8 December.

Q2 (JL): Why can the train and local bus company timetables not be better co-ordinated? If a train is late, people and especially the disabled can miss the bus.

A2: First ScotRail has a full-time integration and access manager and we make sure we integrate as far as possible. There are constraints set by the infrastructure and by the presence of other train operators, including freight. We try to be as flexible as possible and have steadily improved our performance across the network, but bus operators too have schedules to keep so may be able to wait for only a limited time.

Q3 (TD): Why do ticket vending machines not accept local authority and disabled concessionary cards, especially when people are liable for the full fare unless travelling from an unmanned station? Local authority cards have no magnetic strip, and the national disabled card is “a plain piece of cardboard.”

A3: We are investigating software and our on-train staff have been reminded that meantime they should continue to issue these fares. Under our Buy Before you Board policy we have also reminded them that where a disabled person says s/he has difficulty accessing a booking office or machine they should exercise their discretion to sell the concession on board. Customers should complain to First ScotRail if staff have responded incorrectly. If still unsatisfied, they have the right to appeal to Passenger Focus. There is a lot happening within the industry on ticketing, and having already led the way on text messaging for Sleeper bargain berths we are now looking at other applications of new technology.

Q4 (PL): Why is it so difficult to buy a ticket in the morning? The barriers, the queuing, do not encourage people to use trains.

A4: The industry has a maximum queuing standard of five minutes We carry out a number of revenue exercises to get people into the habit of buying in advance, and need to advertise that there will be ticket checks so that people allow more time. We encourage people to buy the evening before, to save queuing in the morning, and shall look at modifying the Ticket Vending Machines to offer this facility. It’s about how we change people’s buying habits - we are looking at putting in more machines, and Helensburgh Central will be on the list next year.

Q5 (JMc): Is marketing of the West Highland Line, a quality tourist asset which could generate more revenue, going to be increased?

A5: Our challenge is to manage available capacity as the services are in demand in the summer. We have produced a great line-guide, put together with the help of the Highland Rail Partnership, which is available at stations and in the Travelpass packs, and also promote awareness through our website and PR activity. We would be keen to explore any specific initiatives, especially outwith summer.

Q6 (SN): What is being done about the cleanliness of stations and tracks – and trains, with one of the worst aspects free newspapers?

A6: First ScotRail maintains strict standards on trains and at stations, and there is also a rigorous maintenance programme at stations. We acknowledge issues on litter on trains and are looking at recycling of newspapers via bins. We will look specifically at Helensburgh-Queen Street train improvements. Trackside litter sits with Network Rail, but we can liaise with them about their contractor’s schedule. We were among the top-performing train operators for cleanliness in the independent National Passenger Survey, but would like to do better and will also take a look at marking of where bins are on trains. At stations, there are security issues but we are looking at getting bins restored to high category stations.

Q7 (MS): Why do trains stop at Jordanhill but not open their doors?

A7: Trains from Helensburgh are booked to run non-stop through Jordanhill, but may be held there by a signal while a train in front clears the junction outside Hyndland.

Q8 (Unidentified): Competition rather than integration is not always in the passenger interest, especially in rural areas?

A8 Co-ordination rests with SPT and the other Regional Transport Partnerships, and we work closely with them. (see also A1 above)

Q9 (Unidentified): Why am I told, on a Sunday afternoon, to come back in the evening to renew my monthly season ticket?

A9: We issue tickets on a Sunday, and will investigate in order that you should be able to renew your ticket there and then. Such renewals are also available online.

Q10 (GP): Why have Helensburgh -Glasgow journey times increased?

A10: Introduction of Dalmuir-Larkhall services in December 2005 required a complete recasting of the Argyle and North Electrics Lines. The rail industry is working closely with Transport Scotland on taking forward the recommendations in the Route Utilisation Strategy for Scotland which could bring benefits for journey-times and capacity. The journey-time of the Arrochar-Helensburgh Upper-Glasgow commuter service has had to be lengthened to take account of the impact of the upgrading at Edinburgh Waverley on Edinburgh-Glasgow schedules, and the opportunity has been taken to use the extra time by inserting calls at Maryhill and Possilpark & Parkhouse.

Q11 (C0): Why can spare Edinburgh-Glasgow stock not be used on Sunday on the West Highland Line, as the previous firm managed?

A11: The questioner is recalling BR practice in the 1980s, when the Edinburgh-Glasgow route was worked by locohauled trains. Of the three types of diesel multiple-unit that we now use, the West Highland Lines are route-cleared only for Class 156s. However in summer we do draft in additional units of this type from other routes where these can be spared, notably during school or college holidays.

Q12 (C0): Why is the Club 55 offer only during the summer?

A12: There are Club 55 promotions in spring/early summer and the autumn of each year.

Q13 (TD): Why has the timetable been changed so much that schoolchildren are arriving home at 1645 on a winter’s night?

A13: The changes were due to the recast associated with the introduction of the Larkhall service in December 2005, and were the subject of discussion beforehand with SPT. Our timetables are on an even-interval basis and therefore cannot accommodate one train running out of sequence.

Q14 (DT): Why is it cheaper to buy a return ticket than a single ticket on some journeys?

A14: There are some anomalies which we inherited and can be addressed only over time through the processes for fares regulation with Transport Scotland. Passenger Focus want to simplify the ticketing structure, and would advise people to look at their website.

Q15 (PMc): How can I complain when the person has no name badge and no-one else is there?

A15: Customer service is very important. The sooner we know of a complaint, the better, and we can trace individuals, name badge or not. Complaints can be lodged through our customer contact centre or our website, by writing in. Information on how to contact us is available at stations and on trains

Q16 (FMc) On the West Highland Line, why does the information system say only that the train is going to Oban and not Fort William?

A16: Due to the PIS using through-train wiring, it is not possible to set up each portion individually. This will require to be done by the conductor locally.

Q17 (SN): I was told a friend found it difficult to book the Sleeper one month/six weeks ahead on the internet – why is this?

A17: The industry seeks to provide a 12-week booking horizon, and we are working with Network Rail to manage the impact of overnight engineering works in connection with West Coast Route Modernisation.

Q18 (SN) Why can trees grow out of buildings despite major refurbishments?

A18: We have a £20M station investment programme, which includes Helensburgh Central and other stations along the route. With regard to vegetation, there is a full programme of maintenance inspections every two weeks on the network which should identify any such issues, but tackling them sometimes requires engineering possessions which can take up to 13 weeks to arrange.

Q19 (LMc): Why are information boards full of “don’t leave luggage unattended” signs when all I want is train departure information?

A19: These messages are required in accordance with national security arrangements at stations. Wherever possible we try to put the display on one screen at a time only, but some systems do not allow us to do that. We shall take this away and have another look at it.

Q20 (MT) Complained of lack of information during a 45-minute wait at Dalmuir, and asked for improvements, including a waiting room and notice-boards with information.

A20: The lack of information should not have happened and staff should have been able to advise on the next available service. Dalmuir already has Help Points enabling customers to speak to our Customer Services Centre where the operators have access to live train-running information. The station is now being equipped with a Customer Information System, and under our Station Investment Programme will receive an improved waiting facility. Additionally Dalmuir has also been included by Transport Scotland in their first tranche of stations for Access for All funding to provide stepfree access.

Q21 Local authority concessionary cards can be bought only on the day of travel and people in Helensburgh, Cardross and Dumbarton would like to buy a seven-day ticket.
A21: Evidence would be required of demand to justify the further software modification that could be needed and Passenger Focus encouraged customers to write to First ScotRail directly.

Q22 (TD): Why is the exit at Helensburgh Central to the carpark closed in the evening?

A22: We will take this on board and try to get police involved.

Q23 (JMc): When there is no taxi rank, can station poster information not include the name of the local taxi firm?

A23: We shall look at putting phone-numbers on the onward travel totem signage when they are reviewed. Where stations have Help Points, Paisley and Dunfermline are able to assist with customer information via this medium.

Q24 (MS): Why are onboard announcements so invasive and repeated so often?

A24 A check of audio levels is planned across the Class 156 fleet, and any trains found to be outwith the specification will be reset. In addition a new task is being added to the maintenance instructions to cover checking of the PIS volume using a sound-level meter.

Conclusion:

James King congratulated the audience for producing the widest range of issues of any customer forum. A number of issues would be taken away and Passenger Focus would work with First ScotRail and Regional Transport Partnerships on such matters as integration, timetables, West Highland Line promotions and concessionary tickets. First ScotRail was very much a listening train operator, which made their job that much easier as a consumer body. Passengers with any complaint which First ScotRail had been unable to resolve should always feel able to contact Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel : 08453 022 022 or by post : Freepost WA1521 Warrington WA4 6GP.

Steve Montgomery thanked the forum for so much feedback, and looked forward to being able to implement ideas emerging from the discussion Any further queries for First ScotRail should be sent please to customerforums@firstgroup.com.

Dunfermline Customer Forum

Lauder College, Dunfermline, Monday 4 September 2006

Present

  1. James King, Scottish Board Member of Passenger Focus
  2. 27 members of the public including : Andrew Arbuckle MSP, Dr Bob McLellan Fife Council Head of Transportation, Jessica Barrow Board Member of Passenger Focus, Robert Samson Passenger Focus Link Manager.
  3. Mary Dickson, First ScotRail Managing Director and members of her senior management team plus other First ScotRail representatives

Introduction

Welcoming everyone to First ScotRail’s ninth customer forum, James King explained that Passenger Focus was an independent watchdog which took up issues on passengers’ behalf so as to press for the changes in rail services and facilities which customers wanted to see. Introducing her team, Mary Dickson said that it was good to be back in Fife where a forum had been held near Inverkeithing in April 2005, and she looked forward to taking stock of progress since then while being as frank and honest as possible about how services might be further improved.

Questions and Answers

Q1 (HW) : Can gaps in the timetable be filled such as those from 0905 to 1005 in the service from Dunfermline Town to Edinburgh?
A1 : We recognise these inconsistencies, but at present have insufficient resources to run more services at times of the day when our resources are committed to accommodating the main peak flows. However we shall bear in mind for the future the desirability of filling such gaps when additional capacity becomes available with the completion of the Waverley station upgrading and the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine reopening.

Q2 (BM) : Late at night passengers returning from Edinburgh to Dunfermline have a 2150-2320 gap during which two trains run to Kirkcaldy – could this be reconsidered?
A2 : Historically demand has been lower in late evening than during the day, but we accept that the 2320 is now well-used and shall review the position.

Q3 (AA) : Why do Fife passengers have to pay what are reputed to be the most expensive fares per mile in Scotland?
A3: The first thing to say is that fares are not mileage-based, a link which was broken pre privatisation. The current structure containing tens of thousands of individual fares was inherited by First ScotRail, and fares regulation places limits on the changes we are permitted to make. However, it is not accurate to say that Fife has the most expensive fares per mile. For example, a Standard Day Return in Fife is 20p per mile on average, whereas the same ticket between Edinburgh and Prestonpans is 22p per mile and between Glasgow and Paisley 27p per mile.
Q4 (HS) : Why not reopen the Alloa-Dunfermline line to passengers?
A4 : The Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine reopening provides for a passenger service on the Stirling-Alloa stretch, and was specified long before the start of this franchise when it was believed that there would be insufficient demand to justify a passenger service beyond Alloa. It would now be for Transport Scotland to consider any opportunities for further service development on existing routes and the scope for putting forward new ideas provided by the consultation on Network Rail’s recently-published Route Utilisation Strategy

Q5 (DD) : Why did I not get a continuance of my Charter discount when I switched from a monthly to an annual season ticket?
A5 : Holders of annual seasons get a discount on the daily fare calculated on the basis of a multiplier, and additionally are entitled to the same discount as holders of other ticket-types where service-performance falls short of standards under the Passenger’s Charter. However the discount is proportionate to the duration of travel experienced on the last season purchased so you are entitled to the discount only if you are renewing your season ticket with one of the same validity as your previous one.

Q6 (CS) : Will the forthcoming termination of some Fife services at Haymarket during the Waverley upgrading be only temporary?
A6 : Network Rail have produced a Haymarket connections guide showing the conections available to and from Waverley for those services that are having to terminate at Haymarket during the Waverley upgrading in 2007, and further guidance will be produced before the start of these arrangements on 27 December. Latest information can be obtained from the Network Rail website. Passenger Focus will be keeping an eye on the situation to ensure that passengers are kept properly informed

Q7 (PR) : Why can’t commuters have more trains from Dunfermline, for example filling the 0723-0758 gap?
A7 : The Waverley upgrading will allow for an extra four train movements an hour, and the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine reopening will divert one coal train an hour from the Forth Bridge. How this capacity should be best used will be for Transport Scotland to decide

Q8 (DK) : Could First ScotRail make more effort to strengthen services for crowds returning from midweek events in Edinburgh such as the CIS Scottish Cup Semifinal and T on the Fringe?
A8 : We have increased our provision of additional carriages on what the information reaching us indicated would be busy nights, but are continuously monitoring uptake and shall be happy to take on board your feedback.

Q9 (DB) : The 1620 Edinburgh-Cowdenbeath is the last homebound service before the evening-peak cheap fare restriction, but it’s only two coaches – could it be lengthened please?
A9 : At that time of day almost all of our rolling-stock is committed to peak-time services, but we shall review the situation on this service and are continuing to monitor loadings on individual services by means of the loadweigh system.
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Q10 (RH) : As well as the 0905-1005 gap from Dunfermline Town, there’s also one from 1716 to 1839 at Dalgety Bay, could that be filled too please?
A10 : Again there is no possibility of making improvements this side of the Waverley upgrading in 2007, but we are aware of the gap and can bear in mind for any opportunities that may arise also from the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine reopening.

Q11 (MB) : Would like to see ticket gates at Dunfermline, and could monthly seasons be purchased from a Ticket Vending Machine or from gate staff?
A11 : Dunfermline Town has additional ticket-checking staff but we have no plans for automatic gates there. An ability to sell monthlies from TVMs is an aspiration for the future but would require substantial software development so is not being taken forward at the present time when our efforts are being concentrated on our new station retailing system. ,However weeklies can be renewed online, and we are looking to extend this facility to monthlies.

Q12 (PR) : Can steps be taken to prevent the need to replace annual seasons which become worn out prematurely and so will no longer work at ticket gates?
A12 : There was a software fault that we thought we had resolved. One of the ticket-issuing machines at Waverley was known to have had a problem with its roller. The rollers at both Waverley and Haymarket have been rechecked, and a few have been changed. This will go some way to helping the situation, which will also require a inclusion on the maintenance check every 3 or 4 months to try and prevent it recurring.

Q13 (CS) : Can passenger facilities at Dunfermline Town be transferred to the Edinburgh-bound platform?
A13 : We are in discussion with Transport Scotland about a proposal to enhance facilities on the Edinburgh-bound side.

Q14 (DB) : Can revenue protection be improved to capture fares which are going uncollected because passengers have switched to stations such as Rosyth or are alighting at South Gyle?
A14 : We have been putting in more on-train staff where experience shows these to be needed to get through the train. We also conduct ad hoc spotchecks, and are considering other solutions such as more Ticket Vending Machines.

Q15 (JB) : Can you review the position on trains that don’t stop at North Queensferry?
A15 : Those trains that omit North Queensferry do so because historically they were felt to have insufficient capacity to do so.

Q16 (DS) : Cancellations are much reduced but when these do occur they are sometimes either side of long gaps when it is difficult to get alternative transport?
A16 : Unfortunately cancellations tend to happen at the busiest times when other transport options also have least capacity, but we recognise that it is our responsibility to get you to your destination by whatever mode is available, and have put more staff into our Customer Services Centre at Dunfermline so as to be able to convey information to our customers through the station Help Points.

Q17 (AA) : Are you bringing any pressure to reopen closed stations?
A17 : No because it is our job to run the services that we are contracted to provide. However you can press for additional services and stations through your responses to the Route Utilisation Strategy or through your input to the Regional Transport Strategy being prepared by the South East Scotland Regional Transport Partnership.

Q18 (JS) : What is the status of the comment in the Route Utilisation Strategy about little-used stations, and what about its recommendation on breaking the Edinburgh Crossrail?
A18 : While drawing attention to variations in station usage, the RUS makes no proposal to close any station. Newcraighall trains will turn round at Waverley during the station upgrading in 2007, but its suggestion as to making this permanent for the sake of timekeeping is a recommendation that is now subject to consultation.

Q19 (ES) : Why were staff at Dunfermline Town unaware in mid-August as to the details of the Leuchars Airshow offer such as whether there would be additional or strengthened services?
A19 : Staff should have been clear as to the details, and we shall investigate what went wrong.

Q20 (ES) : Why is the Passenger Information display on trains often wrong?
A20 : The system that we inherited on the Class 170 trains was not robust, and issues have been taken up with the suppliers of the GPS-based equipment. Now they have come up with new software which will be fitted to the Class 170 trains and will also be rolled out in the New Year across our Class 158 fleet.

Q21 (RB) : What plans do you have for expansion of carparking which at stations such as Ladybank is often full by 0800?
A21 : We are raising with Transport Scotland opportunities for carpark expansion which will often be on land owned by Network Rail, and shall be developing a strategy for the next two to three years while recognising that train capacity needs to keep pace. Fife Council have a new 300-space carpark under construction at Kirkcaldy, and are beginning work on their Markinch interchange which will provide an additional 150 spaces. Passenger Focus recognises carparking as a Britain-wide issue since available offpeak capacity on trains may go unused if potential customers cannot get parked at stations.

Q22 (HW) : When will the carpark extension be delivered at Dunfermline Town?
A22 : Fife Council are letting a contract for construction of 93 spaces at Dunfermline Town which will start on site in November for completion in early 2006.

Q23 (DD) : Why did the British Transport Police take no interest when my car twice suffered collision damage over a year ago in a station carpark at Inverkeithing?
A23 : The provision of CCTV has resulted in a dramatic drop in vehicle crime at stations, where security of our customers and their property is paramount to our operations. We do not understand why the Police took this view, and shall be happy to pursue if you can give us further information.

Q24 (HS) : Won’t your increase in longer-distance walk-on fares before 0915 drive away demand on contra-peak journeys such as Edinburgh-Dundee where the trains are hardly full, and will I have to book ahead to avoid paying more for an Inverkeithing-Glasgow journey?
A24 : The purposes of our longer-distance fares restructuring are to manage demand and to simplify our fares structure. Our new Value Advance fares will be available until 1800 on the eve of travel, in large numbers where we have sufficient capacity. Although not all trains may be full today, we have a responsibility to plan ahead so that passengers can be assured of comfortable journeys as demand continues to increase. Our longer-distance journeys account for no more than a small proportion of journeys on our trains, but we are protecting the position of regular travellers by holding the price of season-tickets and extending the range of flexipasses However trains on the Inverkeithing-Glasgow flow are not reservable and retain a Cheap Day Return..

Q25 (PD) : Will the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine reopening take all of the coal trains off the Forth Bridge, and how will the capacity thus released be reused?
A25 : The reopening will remove all Longannet-bound traffic, leaving as the only coal traffic on the Bridge trains bound from Fife for generators in England. We shall be able to look with Transport Scotland at how best to use the capacity thus created in the light of the Route Utilisation Strategy recommendations once the paths have been made available by Network Rail.

Q26 (PD) : Could you lengthen more trains during the Festival?
A26 : We evaluate our arrangements each year, and this year provide more capacity than ever before. We should be pleased to take on board your feedback

Q27 (DK) : Your Class 170 trains are fine for Fife-Edinburgh local journeys, but are they suitable for longer-distance routes - so why not do as you did during last year’s Open Golf and hire in locomotive-hauled trains?
A27 :.Transport Scotland are developing a rolling-stock strategy to address issues posed by their new projects as well as by growth on existing services. Any change to the fleet for example to secure additional capacity will be challenging within our franchise since we are contractually committed to the retention of almost our entire existing range of trains. Hiring in the locomotive-hauled trains used for the special circumstances of the Open Golf would be too expensive a solution for normal circumstances, where we can achieve marginal improvements within our existing deployment (e.g. reintroduction of Class 322s to North Berwick allowed diesel trains earmarked for that route to be used on other services) but are reliant on Transport Scotland for the incremental costs of going beyond that. We shall continue to work with Transport Scotland on capacity enhancement schemes where this is justified.

Q28 (RS) : Assistance for the mobility impaired has to be booked by an 0845 number which attracts a charge, could this be transferred to an 0800 number which is free?
A28 : The Association of Train Operating Companies are considering the industry’s view on this issue, but we are happy to review our position and will be communicating the new number shortly via our website and other communications channels. The number is 0800 912 2 901 and comes into operation on 9 November.

Q29 (RS) : Is it necessary for all Customer Information Screens at main stations to carry a security message at the same time?
A29 : Where there are several monitors, only one at a time should be displaying this message. We shall now review our practice at stations such as Queen Street.

Q30 (HS) : Why are passengers held queuing in the rain for ticket checks at Inverkeithing?
A30 : While we have a franchise obligation to check tickets, we shall be encouraging our staff to consider how best this might be conducted without unnecessary detriment to the comfort of our customers.

Q31 (RH) : Will you address anomalies in your fares structure, and how can a ticket requiring a seat reservation be picked up for a journey boarding at an unstaffed stations.
A31 : We are now tackling the huge task of addressing the anomalies that have accrued over the years. Evidence suggests that most long-distance travel is not a last-minute destination We are investigating new technologies such as e-ticketing which will make advance purchase tickets more readily available.

Q32 (DB) : Can you improve air-conditioning since passengers on the 1710 ex-Edinburgh which is non-stop from Haymarket to Inverkeithing may have to wait until there for the conductor to transfer from the other set of coaches?
A32 : The Service Quality Improvement Regime which drives our franchise makes provision for checking of train temperatures. Most of our diesel trains are now air-conditioned, but the fitting of new equipment to the Class 158 fleet in the last franchise has posed issues this summer which we have taken up with the supplier.

Q33 (DD) : Can facilities be improved at the bleak South Gyle Station?
A33 : Our Station Investment Programme will provide for the rolling out of new waiting shelters and rooms to further locations.

Q34 (DD) : Stagecoach’s 747 bus starts running at 0515 from Inverkeithing, but how can I connect into it when the earliest train from Cowdenbeath isn’t until 0646?
A34 : Account has to be taken of Network Rail’s overnight maintenance requirements but Transport Scotland are looking with us at improving the range of connections into early-morning journey opportunities.

Q35 (CS) : Could the Sunday service from Dunfermline Town to Edinburgh start earlier than 1139?
A35 : Our Sunday timetables are the product of historical maintenance requirements notably on the Forth Bridge, but working with Network Rail we shall be happy to review with Transport Scotland.

Q36 (RB) : Could the empty stock from Perth that forms the 0555 Kirkcaldy-Edinburgh become an advertised service from Ladybank and Markinch so as to offer these stations a connection into GNER’s 0700 Edinburgh-London?
A36 : Again account has to be taken of Network Rail’s overnight maintenance requirements, but we shall be happy to review the position.

Conclusion :

Having taken a show of hands which indicated universal agreement that services had improved under First ScotRail’s stewardship, James King congratulated the audience on their record range of issues, and said he recognised that First ScotRail did heed complaints. Passengers with any complaint which First ScotRail had been unable to resolve should always feel able to contact Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel : 08453 022 022 or by post : Freepost WA1521 Warrington WA4 6GP. It was encouraging to see services getting better in Fife, and issues about accommodating growth in demand would be for discussion with Transport Scotland

Thanking James King for his independent chairmanship, Mary Dickson concurred that this second customer forum in Fife had produced perhaps the best mix of questions at any such forum so far. First ScotRail sought to be visible and accessible so that fare-paying passengers should always feel welcome to make contact with the company, and she appreciated everyone’s willingness to give their time by attending the event. The magnificent floral displays at Aberdour exemplified what could be achieved when a station was at the heart of the community that it served, and she was keen to see other communities adopt their stations by restoring gardens in partnership with First ScotRail or by helping bring surplus accommodation back into use perhaps for charitable purposes or to house a startup business. Further information about opportunities for providing a floral presence or for using vacant accommodation at stations could be found at the First ScotRail website.

Any follow-up correspondence please to customerforums@firstgroup.com 

Aberdeen Customer Forum 

Douglas Hotel, Aberdeen on Wednesday 22 November 2006

Present :

James King, Scottish Board member of Passenger Focus
24 members of the public including representatives of NESTRANS
Mary Dickson, First ScotRail Managing Director and members of her senior management team plus other First ScotRail representatives

Introduction

Welcoming everyone to First ScotRail’s tenth customer forum, James King explained that Passenger Focus are an independent watchdog which takes up issues on passengers’ behalf so as to press for the changes in rail services and facilities which customers want to see. Mary Dickson said that First ScotRail are under no obligation to hold these events, but welcomes such dialogue with customers which also takes other forms including Meet the Manager sessions, individual correspondence and the National Passenger Survey. Now entering into the third year of the franchise, First ScotRail has a full agenda and will always attempt to give straight answers.

Questions and answers (questioners’ initials shown in brackets)

Q1 (PH-C) : Why is my journey from Insch delayed, overcrowded and not good value for money, with passengers herded through barriers at Aberdeen?
A1 : Performance as measured by independent monitoring has shown an improvement since the start of the franchise, but in the most recent two weeks the autumn leaf-fall season has taken its toll, with loss of adhesion causing trains to lose time. On the single-track Aberdeen-Inverness route delays are inevitably magnified as trains have to wait in passing loops for late-running ones coming in the opposite direction. Transport Scotland are well aware of the limitations imposed by the existing infrastructure, and with transport moving up the political agenda it is to be hoped that there will be recognition of the benefits of improved infrastructure and capacity for economic and social development.

Q2 (DC) : Why are your trains continuously late?
A2 : First ScotRail has entered into investment commitments in trains and depots, some of which have already been delivered, but the Class 158s which work most Aberdeen-Inverness services are due to go through a major overhaul next year which will improve the reliability of the doors. More staff have been taken on to address interior issues including air-conditioning, and while there is still room for improvement at least the service quality indicators are now moving in the right direction.

Q3 (KH) : Why did you restructure your long-distance fares?
A3 : The pricing structure has been inherited from the previous operator, but passenger numbers have risen by 21% in the first two years of the franchise. First ScotRail want to create a structure that encourages people who can be flexible to travel in the off-peak. The new structure of Standard Open and Value Advance fares was trialled in June between Aberdeen and Dundee before being rolled out in September on flows from Aberdeen to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, and we are now seeing a move from peak to off-peak. We have also extended the range of flexipass fares for regular users, and while hoping that our fares initiatives will manage existing capacity to best effect, we shall continue to feed our priorities into NESTRANS and Transport Scotland in the hope that the National Transport Strategy will in due course result in additional capacity.

Q4 (KH) : Could there be a later last train on Saturdays than the present 2114 from Aberdeen to Stonehaven?
A4 : The present timetable is historic, reflecting Network Rail’s engineering requirements, but we hope to be able to revisit opportunities for later services with Transport Scotland, perhaps in the context of the Aberdeen Crossrail.

Q5 (KH) : What progress is there on Aberdeen Crossrail?
A5 : This project is being taken forward by NESTRANS with Transport Scotland, and a report is understood to be awaited in the New Year.

Q6 (JC) : Why did you choose so late a time as 0915 for Savers to become valid, preventing holders from reaching Glasgow before lunchtime?
A6 : This decision was taken on the basis of our monitoring of existing loadings.

Q7 (JC) : Why are Aberdeen-Glasgow services sometimes formed of trains with no Business Class?
A7 : It is not acceptable that Business Class travellers should pay their fare, only to find the facilities not available, so in such circumstances we shall give you a full refund and free refreshments. We have 34 Class 170/4 trains with Business Class, and our diagrams envisage 30 being in service daily. However since a derailment a year ago we have been short of one set, which is expected to re-enter traffic in a few months. When on occasion we start the day short of the right number, we try to shuffle the fleet so as to minimise the impact on routes with a high proportion of Business Class travellers. However should a train arrive at Aberdeen in need of attention by fitters, it may be necessary to substitute another type of train until the situation can be remedied later in the day.

Q8 (JC) : In the new timetable why does one Glasgow-Aberdeen train take 8 minutes longer?
A8 : Aberdeen-Edinburgh trains are having to be rescheduled so as to accommodate the reduction in line capacity during the station upgrading works at Waverley. GNER’s afternoon train therefore has to leave Aberdeen four minutes earlier at 1451, and the 1342 Glasgow-Aberdeen has to wait until it clears the single-line section at Usan.

Q9 (SA) : With only two trains that I can take from Inverurie to get me to work in Aberdeen, why do I have to rely on such poor information as to when these trains will arrive at Inverurie?
A9 : Investment in additional infrastructure to accommodate longer trains and a more frequent service must be for Transport Scotland, who are well aware that the present single track is inhibiting capacity – the recommendations of Network Rail’s Route Utilisation Strategy in these regards will feed into Transport Scotland’s High Level Output Statement setting out the improvements to the network that Ministers wish to fund. Lack of customer information at Inverurie is however an issue for First ScotRail - and Help Points on both platforms enable passengers to ask our Customer Services Centre for up-to-date train running information. With funding from the new Small Rail Fund we shall now be able to provide a modern Customer Information System at Inverurie, where new seating and an additional shelter have also been provided.

Q10 (GC) : Why does Scotland have such poor-quality long-distance rolling-stock, with inadequate provision for cycles and luggage?
A10 : The introduction of Class 170/4 trains represents a significant improvement on what was there before, but they do have to serve a variety of markets including the busy Edinburgh-Glasgow route. Platform-lengths dictate the number of carriages whose design has to reconcile a number of requirements including seating capacity, wheelchair and luggage space and cycle accommodation. Fortunately we are working in a positive political environment where we are advising Transport Scotland on a rolling-stock strategy appropriate to projects such as the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link which may help us achieve a better fit of our trains to the variety of roles that they are expected to fulfil. The Class 170/4s have enhanced cycle provision, and we are discussing with Transport Scotland refurbishment options for the Class 158s which could include more cycle spaces as a trade-off against seating capacity. Passenger Focus’s independently conducted National Passenger Survey undertaken twice yearly with a representative group has found an improvement over the last two years on both luggage and passenger comfort which is even more marked on routes to Aberdeen, with passengers content over comfort up from 62% to 85%.

Q11 (SK) : Why can’t there be a replacement train when things go wrong?
A11 : At certain times of day we can make adjustments, but at peak hours all of our resources are in use. The forthcoming refurbishment of the Class 158s will address door problems, which should improve reliability. It will never be cost-effective to have spare trains sitting around at the peaks when the claims of transport have to be weighed up against other priorities for public expenditure, but we shall continue urging the Transport Minister to recognise the desirability of investing in additional capacity to accommodate the growing volumes of passengers, which have risen 44% in ten years since privatisation and are forecast to grow in the next decade by a further 50% on long-distance and 30% on other routes.

Q12 (MF) : Why do you regularly accept bookings for the 1819 Aberdeen-Inverness on Fridays, squeezing regular passengers into just one carriage?
A12 : Such feedback is valuable to us, and we are reviewing the situation with this train. Fridays are a busy night, but such a recurrence underlines the need for more rolling-stock, on which your support in pressing your MSP could be helpful.

Q13 (EW) : NESTRANS with Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Councils are concerned about the statistical basis of the Route Utilisation Strategy, so can we collectively respond that its assumptions are not acceptable?
A13 : Although the RUS is a key document, the National Transport Strategy will take account of other data reflecting economic growth which may more closely reflect the passenger volumes now being experienced. Passenger Focus are also sampling routes so as to provide independent evidence.

Q14 (LM) : Why have there been signalling problems between Montrose and Stonehaven?
A14 : We shall investigate what is being done with Network Rail to improve resilience.

Q15 (LM) : Why did you accept a block booking for the 1722 Aberdeen-Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago, leaving very few seats for the regular commuters?
A15 : We have to juggle different demands within the capacity of our existing fleet, to which we are committed for the duration of the franchise. We do monitor loadings on a regular basis, and have a structured process for handling block bookings taking account of other known demands.

Q16 (LM) : When Laurencekirk reopens, will fares be set at a reasonable level so as to avoid the present unaffordability of those between Montrose and Aberdeen?
A16 : The new station will be incorporated within a structure which currently has tens of thousands of different fares between individual pairs of stations, the majority of them regulated within a framework set up by the Scottish Executive. We shall keep the situation under review in line with the emergent fares policy.

Q17 (DC) : What is the health and safety view on standing passengers?
A17 : There is no statutory limit on the number of standing passengers. Research has indicated that while having to stand on a crowded train is undoubtedly uncomfortable, there is no specific safety risk of having to stand. Nevertheless overcrowding is not acceptable to Transport Scotland or ourselves.

Q18 (LM) : Why have your text alert messages stopped?
A18 : JourneyCheck is in operation, and we have made a spot check to confirm this.

Q18 (LM) : When is the disabled access issue going to be resolved at Montrose?
A18 : The Scottish Executive are considering further bids to the Access for All programme. Inaccessible platforms are an inheritance from the railway’s Victorian origin, and where no reasonable access exists we must provide free transport to the nearest accessible station. We have recently changed our number for booking assistance to a freephone. Proposed resignalling in the Montrose area could allow most northbound trains to use the nearside platform.

Q20 (LM) : What procedures are in place for unattended luggage on trains?
A20 : Staff are trained to take account of how the item has been left before deciding what to do about it. The great majority of items left unattended have been mislaid by their owner.

Q21 (PL) : Why are we treated like cattle in pens on arriving at Aberdeen?
A21 :The present manual barriers are not ideal, and will be replaced early next year by automatic gates for passengers travelling from and to the south. A major refurbishment linked to the Union Square redevelopment will then allow introduction of a second gateline covering Platform 6, and Platform 7 will also be included in due course. Meanwhile we shall investigate whether Tensa barriers could be substituted for the present ones.

Q22 (FB) : Why was the 0745 from Dyce held up for the Aberdeen-Inverness service when the latter was already late-running?
A22 : Train regulation is an issue for Network Rail, who have to take account of the wider repercussions of a particular train running late, particularly along a single-track route where it is due to cross other services at passing loops. We can understand your concern as a commuter that your journey was being held up, and shall take up your experience with Network Rail.

Q23 (FB) : When I lost my ticket before boarding my train at Aberdeen, why could I not buy one from platform staff who were happy to sell tickets to arriving passengers but sent me to the Travel Centre?
A23 : Transport Scotland expect us to offer a strict revenue protection regime, and the policy is to encourage you to go to the Travel Centre rather than start relying on the presence of these Ticket Examiners, whose role is primarily to deal with arrivals from unstaffed stations - they may not always be there to help you once the installation of automatic gates frees them up to undertake a more roving role. Ticket Vending Machines are also planned for Aberdeen and for several other north-east stations. Nevertheless we are trying to encourage staff to make greater use of their discretion, and our commitment to spending an additional £1M a year on training and development is intended to promote better customer service, learning from other industries. Other passengers understandably get irritated at seeing people not paying their fares, and we are keen to develop ticketing options including online purchasing while redeploying our ticket examiners to combat fares evasion on intermediate flows eg Insch-Dyce which may at present go unchecked.

Q24 (SA) : The Inverurie booking office closes at 1400 each afternoon, so can I have some other way of buying my tickets?
A24 : The hours of opening are regulated in the franchise, and reflect lack of demand outwith these times. We are keen to introduce more flexible ticketing such as barcodes to mobiles, with an extension of smart technology rather than of the present methods of transaction. In addition to the SMS text-messaging now introduced for Sleeper reservations, we are also working on development of options including print-at-home technology.

Q25 (JC) : For a Friday-for-Wednesday purchase, why did Telesales offer me only their premium postage service, not use of a Fast Ticket machine?
A25 : This was for a Club 55 ticket with a Senior Railcard which has never been available in the past due to the previous limited availability of such machines. However we shall now ensure that the next round of Club 55 has the Fast Ticket machines with Ticket on Departure added as a delivery method.

Q26 (JC) : Why did I no longer need to use the code to pick up my ticket from the Fast Ticket machine, which simply accepted my credit card?
A26 : When collecting tickets from FT machines, if the customer uses the same card that the booking was made with, and there is only one booking in the system for that customer, the ticket will print out without the need for a reference number to be input.

If they insert a different card to the one the booking was made with and/or there is more than one booking in the system for the customer - they will need to input the reference number.

Q27 (JC) : Am I able to collect online purchases at Fast Ticket machines?
A27 : Yes.

Q28 (SK) : When developing your ideas for buying tickets on line, will you recognise that many communities don’t support broadband?
A28 : We are aiming to provide for the majority, and while there may be some communities who remain beyond our reach, being able to sell in this way to most customers will be a huge improvement on the present situation where the rail industry has been very slow to embrace new technology. Automatic ticket gates will always be staffed for those who need assistance in passing through them.

Q29 (GC) : Why don’t you lobby the Executive for rolling-stock improvements?
A29 : Our role is not to lobby but to deliver in accordance with our franchise commitments. We’ve gone far beyond the requirement to deliver a performance improvement of two percentage-points annually, and have also invested significantly in improving Haymarket Depot over and above what was required of us. We are pleased to help Transport Scotland to develop their ideas, but lobbying should be for customers and other stakeholders to pursue with their MSP.

Q30 (JS) : Why is overnight travel in the seated coach cramped and expensive?
A30 : These coaches were converted seven years ago by the previous franchise, who commissioned research to help determine the most appropriate design. Only half a coach is available, so best use has to be made of the space and our £1M Sleeper refurbishment programme does not extend to the seated coach. Any consideration of overnight fares must take account of the bargain berths available online which start at £19.

Q31 (SW) : What consideration has First ScotRail given to improving the provision of secure motorcycle parking and locker facilities at their stations?
A31 : Dedicated motorcycle parking is not normally provided, and security advice precludes storage of motorcycles in lockers.

Conclusion :
James King congratulated the audience for being productive. Passengers with any complaint which First ScotRail had been unable to resolve should always feel able to contact Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk tel : 08453 022 022 or by post : Freepost WA1521 Warrington WA4 6GP. The evening had provided much material for Passenger Focus’s continuing dialogue with Transport Scotland.

Thanking everyone for giving their time, Mary Dickson said that not for a moment did First ScotRail imagine that everything was right. Some figures however spoke for themselves such as the Moving Annual Averages for punctuality which in the last three years had gone in the right direction on all three routes out of Aberdeen (to Inverness 80.3, 83, 87%, to Glasgow 82.7, 86, 89.6%, to Edinburgh 82, 84, 91% within five minutes of right time). While First ScotRail had been through some experiences of disappointing performance, they did not shirk their responsibilities including those on safety, and would continue to work in close partnership with Transport Scotland, helping drive the improvements that everyone wanted to see.

John Yellowlees
First ScotRail External Relations Manager
20 December 2006

Any queries to customerforums@firstgroup.com please.