ScotRail challenged by MP Douglas Ross and Moray Councillor Ben Williams on the impact of new train timetable
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FROM Monday, May 23 ScotRail's new temporary timetable has come into effect, with more than 700 trains cancelled daily across the country.
The new changes will drastically impact travellers in Moray with services finishing three hours earlier and the last full route trains leaving from Aberdeen at 18:05 and Inverness at 18:18.
Moray MP Douglas Ross and Labour Councillor for Fochabers and Lhanbryde Ben Williams have both slammed the cuts and raised concerns over how this will impact people in Moray.
Mr Ross said: “The SNP took over our rail network on April Fools Day, but these savage cuts are no joke for passengers, including those reliant on train services across Moray.
“In the evening in particular, passengers looking to get home from nights out, meals, gigs and other social events will simply find themselves unable to do so on the trains.
“That will be absolutely devastating for businesses who are only just recovering from the effects of the Covid pandemic. We are not talking about services departing a few minutes earlier, we are talking several hours earlier.
“Our rural and remote communities already feel cut off and this will only exacerbate those feelings. We are only seven weeks into Nat-Rail but it is already proving disastrous for passengers in Moray and across Scotland.
“The SNP boasted about delivering a new beginning for our railways last month, but all passengers are seeing fewer and fewer services, with no end in sight. Nicola Sturgeon had no answers when I challenged her at First Ministers Questions as to when this drastically reduced timetable will end.
“Moray’s passengers deserve to see urgent leadership from SNP Ministers to get an end to this situation as quickly as possible, otherwise the local economy will be dealt a hammer blow.”
Labour Councillor for Fochabers and Lhanbryde, Ben Williams has also written to the Managing Director of ScotRail and Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth, detailing his concerns about the impact of ScotRail's new temporary timetable on people in Moray.
Commenting on his letter, Cllr Williams said:
“For too long ScotRail has tried to run with a shoestring staff, with the Inverness to Aberdeen always being something of a ‘Cinderella’ service. Regular travellers on the line will know it wasn’t exactly a brilliant service to begin with, so for it to be cut back even further really is enormously concerning.”
“I’m worried about the impact these cuts will have on those without access to alternative forms of transport, as well as the effects on tourism in Moray. I have written to the Managing Director because I know that individuals and businesses will want to know when they can expect these services to return to normal.”
ScotRail have claimed that the changes will provide greater certainty and reliability for customers after hundreds of trains have been cancelled this month as a result of union action from rail drivers.
Due to driver shortages, ScotRail has depended on drivers working overtime and on rest days to maintain services but drivers are now unwilling to continue this practice, due to a dispute over pay and working conditions.
ScotRail Service Delivery Director, David Simpson, said: “The temporary timetable only came into operation today and it’s not possible to say how long it will be in place.
“We’re keen to resolve the dispute as soon as possible and the timetable will operate for as long as it needs to in order to provide a dependable service to our customers.
“There will be a review of the timetable and if we’re able to return it back to normal, or make improvements, we’ll make sure we advise customers through our usual channels, the website, our mobile app, and social media.
“We’re sorry to our customers for the disruption they’ve faced, and we share their frustration.”
The Minister for Transport, Jenny Gilruth declined to comment. Her office said yesterday: "The Minister spoke about the timetables more generally at committee this morning and also in response to a topical question in a Parliament this afternoon. Can I refer The Northern Scot to those please for our latest position."