Transport minister ‘too busy’ to talk trains

A Fife MP has accused Scotland’s transport minister of peddling excuses to dodge Fife’s hard-pressed ScotRail commuters.
Lesley Laird MP requested an urgent meeting with Michael Matheson MSP and Alex Hynes in April to discuss constituents’ ongoing concerns with overcrowded carriages, cancellations and compensation issues.
Mr Matheson responded last week stating that “due to a heavily committed diary” he was unable to offer a date for a meeting in the “coming months”.
He previously refused the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP’s request to discount Fife fares by 30 per cent until services returned to normal.
Lesley commented: “You have to ask yourself, what can be more of a priority for the Minister of Transport than standing up for commuters in Fife – a region suffering probably its worst rail services in living memory? Well, clearly Mr Matheson does not think that Fife commuters are a priority for him.
“He’s simply too busy hiding behind his diary. Well, looks like his diary is just like a Fife train carriage – packed full, running late and totally disorganised.
“To use this as an excuse to hide from Fifers having to bear the sharp end of ScotRail’s woes is outrageous.
“Commuters will look at this pathetic excuse and say why is he dodging the meeting about Fife rail services? What has he got to hide?”
In his letter, Mr Matheson said ScotRail had achieved a recent reduction in cancellations but acknowledged more needed done.
ScotRail’s remedial plan would be overseen by an independent railway expert, he added, to ensure continued focus on improving performance.
In addition, Transport Scotland would also investigate ‘potential’ improvements to the Delay Repay scheme.
At a packed-out meeting in Kirkcaldy in February, ScotRail director Alex Hynes said peak time trains would continue to be overcrowded until December 2019.
Lesley said: “Since that meeting, services in Fife have become worse not better. In mid-April, for example, an astonishing 14 services were cancelled in just one day. We’re now hearing that punctuality targets might not be met at the end of 2021. Meanwhile, people are collapsing on overcrowded carriages.
“Yet Mr Matheson is just too busy to do anything about it. With summer months approaching, I do hope Mr Matheson does not regret his disregard of these very real concerns.”
She added: “This is a shambles and, at the very least, those in charge should be prepared to sit down and talk through specifics with me about how they propose to improve matters for hard-working tax payers.
“Instead, they’re hiding behind letters of intent and expecting Fifers just to suck up the misery until the problem is resolved sometime in the future.
“Fifers are already paying too much per rail mile than other regions, and poor service is yet another layer of insult. Proper compensation in the form of a price reduction could be resolved now if only the political will was there to do it.
“The Transport Minister needs to stop dodging the issue and face up to his responsibilities and get a date in the diary to meet me to discuss these critical service issues.”