Around 150 Services are set to be added to ScotRail’s timetable as they re-build Scotlands Railway following the COVID pandemic
ScotRail’s announcement comes in response to a recent public consultation regarding their proposed new timetable and is a bid to get back on track following the pandemic and will ensure that the railway is fit for the future.
May 2022 will be operating approximately 2,150 services each day and will provide over 590,000 seats. The changes see almost 150 additional services compared to the previous year when the consultation started. The changes also mean that there will be more daily seats available than in 2018 when the railway had 97 million passengers using services.
Currently, the temporary timetable due to the Omicron variant is still in operation, however, the 150 additional services coming online in May this year will be based on the December 2021 timetable. The December 2021 timetable is set to be put back into operation on Monday 14th February.
Passengers will be able to enjoy more reliable services than those running before the pandemic due to lessons learned throughout which have seen improvements made to punctuality and reliability.
Feedback received during the consultation had led to alterations being made to the initially proposed timetable for differing parts of the country which has been supported by the available data. for example:
- A direct service will run throughout the day between Perth and Kirkcaldy rather than via Dunfermline as was initially proposed. Further services will also operate through the evenings in Fife.
- An extra early morning service will run from New Cumnock to Glasgow and evening peak and late evening services from Glasgow to Dumfries.
- The period between services at stations between Perth and Inverness is now better spaced with more trains stopping at some stations.
- A trial half-hourly service will run during the day on the Borders railway which will test how quickly off-peak demand recovers and grows ahead of pre-pandemic levels, previously this was set to be an hourly off-peak service.
- Further services will be added to the Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Central via Carstairs and via Shotts routes during December 2022 and also in May 2023 which is because of delays in driver training caused by the pandemic.
The consultation saw 3,450 responses making it the most successful consultation in ScotRail’s history, the website was also viewed over 25,000 times. The consultation began in August 2021 following the impact of coronavirus on travel patterns and accelerated pre-pandemic trends, such as:
- Around half of the people who responded to the consultation said they took the train to work every day before but will work from home for some of the week for the foreseeable future.
- Through the peak of the pandemic, passenger numbers dropped by a huge 95%.
- ScotRail put in place twelve timetable changes during a period which usually would only see three, which provided conclusive evidence to build future timetables on.
- Morning and evening rush hour periods have now changed and trends reveal that journeys are being spread throughout the day with a greater focus on travelling for leisure rather than work. The busiest days of the week have now become Fridays and Saturdays.
- Off-peak travel recovered to 82% of 2019 levels towards the end of 2021, whilst peak and commuting travel only saw recovery reach 47%. ScotRail have predicted that the new timetable will support off-peak travel return to 2019 levels by the end of 2022, however, it is still not clear if peak and commuting journeys will ever see the levels of 2019. The new timetable has enough capacity to cater for the numbers of commuters travelling in 2018.
- Before the pandemic, on average each seat was empty for 77% of its journey. The new timetable will see plenty of seats for those likely to travel and more will be added if passenger numbers exceed forecasts.
ScotRail has been able to keep operating services right through the pandemic due to emergency taxpayer support of over £500 million made via the Scottish Government via the Emergency Measures Agreements (EMA). This support has protected ScotRail jobs without the need to use furlough, cut wages or reduce staff benefits.
Approximately 60% of pre-pandemic passengers are now back to using the railway.
David Simpson, ScotRail Operations Director, said:
“We know our customers want more trains, so we are pleased to be able to add 150 more services to the timetable from May 2022, delivering a service that is safe, reliable, green, clean, and fit for the future.
“This timetable is the start of the process of recovering from the pandemic and as passenger numbers increase, we will keep the number of services under regular review.
“What is clear from the evidence we’ve made publicly available is that providing a good rail service does not on its own attract significant numbers to public transport. Train operators, government, and trade unions need to work together to encourage other policy levers to be used.
“We are grateful to everyone who took part in the consultation and shared their views. We welcome all feedback and where passenger demand justifies more trains, we’ll do our best to deliver.”
Jenny Gilruth MSP, Minister for Transport, said:
“I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to give their views and experiences in this consultation. It’s important that people have their say when changes to the timing and frequency of rail services are proposed and I’m pleased that ScotRail listened and responded by revising the proposals to ensure that post-pandemic, more people will have more opportunities to travel in Scotland by train.
“From May, there will be 150 more services operating than in December 2021. This new timetable will help us all recover from the impacts of the pandemic and provides us with a solid starting point to offer rail passengers a more reliable service which is fit for the future.”
To see the detailed response to the timetable consultation, please visit: https://www.scotrail.co.uk/about-scotrail/fit-future