ScotRail cannot give date for ending overcrowding

Wednesday March 13th 2019

Borders Railway

Written by Midlothian View editor, Phil Bowen

Complaints and incidents of overcrowding on the Borders Railway have been on the increase recently.

Midlothian commuters are frustrated by the lack of carriages during rush hour. Recently a man fell faint due to the overcrowding and then this week 150 people were left stranded at Newcraighall.

Midlothian View contacted ScotRail for comment.

In response they said that in December 2017, they increased the number of Class 170 trains used along the route, which was based on customer feedback, and added additional carriages to some of their busiest trains along the route.

Over the course of this year, once the central belt electrification projects are all completed, and the new Class 385 and Inter7City trains are all in service they will redeploy more of our existing Class 170 trains to the Borders Railway.

Most services on the Borders railway will be operated by 3-car class 170 units increasing capacity in both the peak and off peak by a total of 1,500 seats each weekday.

As a result of the widely publicised challenges due to the late delivery of new and upgraded trains, industrial actions, and the impact that this then had on their ability to train enough drivers and conductors on the new trains, this meant Class 170 trains have been used instead of InterCity trains which are still being delivered and used for training. As such they’ve not had as many Class 170s available for the Borders, which has seen less carriages used on some services.

ScotRail are training more than 20 drivers and conductors every day, and they say this will deliver continual improvements in the coming weeks and months.

Passenger numbers on the Borders Railway are up year on year since it’s opening in September 2015:

– Year 1 – 1.3m
– Year 2 – 1.37m
– Year 3 – 1.5m.

A ScotRail spokesperson said:

“We know that one of the biggest concerns for our customers is busy trains – we do all that we can to meet demand, which can peak at different times.

“We run over 2,400 services every single weekday and every available train we have is out on the network to get our customers where they need to be.

“Over the course of this year, we will begin to redeploy more of our existing Class 170 trains to the Borders. These trains will add more than 1,500 extra seats each day.”

However, pressed to provide a date as to when the extra carriages will actually be available for the Borders Railway the ScotRail spokesperson said:

“As the rollout is reliant on other factors, outwith ScotRail’s direct control, we are unable to provide commuters with a date.”

Midlothian Councillor, Pauline Winchester, who was caught up in the latest incident yesterday said:

“The two carriage scenario is happening far too often. I only travel in to Edinburgh three times a week maximum and I dread seeing only two carriages pull up.

“When the train only has two carriages it means a tight squeeze with as many people as possible getting on. This morning was absolutely farcical – I was standing at Newtongrange with a tight squeeze happening at Eskbank. Those waiting at Newcraighall and Brunstans didn’t stand a chance! This can’t be good for ScotRail as those people may just catch a bus instead.

“Passenger numbers have been rising since its opening in 2015 and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that two carriages at the busiest times of the day (when most passengers will be travelling) will not be sufficient.

“It is about time we invited them back to the full Midlothian Council meeting to give us an update on how the fares from Midlothian residents are being spent! I’ll ask the council leader Councillor Derek Milligan to issue an invitation.”

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