For ScotRail: Scott Prentice, Head of ScotRail timetable department
Allan Brooking, Community Liaison Manager
For ELCRP: Harry Barker, Chairman
The object of the meeting was to discuss detailed timetable issues with Scott Prentice in order that an understanding could be gleaned regarding these, and any operational problems that exist. These issues had already been made known to ScotRail.
The meeting was extremely constructive throughout.
Provision of an additional morning peak train to arrive into Edinburgh between 0830hrs and 0900hrs.
ScotRail confirmed that whilst electric locomotives are available should such a service be introduced, spare coaching stock is at a premium (and therefore more costly than might have been the case) and having costed the additional service at £1.5m per annum, it is unlikely to occur on that basis. An explanation was given regarding the current Fife loco hauled trains which cost over £3m per annum to run as being required to replace existing services when Eversholt Leasing hired existing ScotRail units to another operator. The case for a new working is considerably weaker.
However, the current Cross Country train which stops at Dunbar at 0742hrs and which arrives into Waverley at 0807hrs is, in effect, a ScotRail working which Cross Country run on contract to Transport Scotland and are subsidised by them to do so. That contract is renewed annually wef December and because ScotRail has still to take delivery of its new Class 385 electric units, the contract has recently been renewed until December 2017. At that time however, it is expected that Scot Rail will assume responsibility for the Dunbar – Edinburgh timings and run their own train from Dunbar to Edinburgh, and at that time it is hoped that a package of measures can be put to Transport Scotland to fund an additional journey from Dunbar to Edinburgh and also address the evening trains to Dunbar. A train path has been calculated to leave Dunbar at 0831hrs and arrive in Waverley at 0856 hrs without disturbing existing ORR and Network agreed paths for other operators.
An issue with this is Waverley station itself where Platform 12 is being extended through from the West side of the station to the East to provide another very long through Platform (part of the Scotland route study Control Period 6 seemingly coming in ahead of schedule). Because of the substantial work involved, Platform 12 will be closed for a year and there will be disruption at the East end also as the new Platform there is put in (currently Platform 5 where the spare locos are held to cover for main line breakdowns). The upshot of this is that Waverley will be one Platform down for almost the whole of 2018 and at present a solution has to be found to accommodate the additional Dunbar service mentioned above. Once the work is completed, that should not be a problem. Platform 4 – used by many of the North Berwick departures – is also to be lengthened and all Virgin East Coast services will use Platform 4 and 5 from 2018, meaning NB services will have to use another platform. It is therefore possible that some improvement to Dunbar services will be seen from December 2017, but if space cannot be found at Waverley to accommodate the additional peak journey, it will definitely be introduced in December 2018.
Package of East Lothian improvements
Rather than put individual relatively small items for approval to Transport Scotland, it is proposed to put a package of changes to Transport Scotland to be considered as a whole, albeit not necessarily introduced at the same time, particularly in respect of Dunbar.
Later evening services to East Lothian from Edinburgh
These fall into two categories – those to North Berwick and those to Dunbar. The CRP suggested that the existing 2143hrs and 2313hrs (2311hrs on Saturdays) to North Berwick journeys be retarded by 30 minutes to leave at 2213hrs and 2343hrs (using the same unit that works the 2043hrs departure to allow for those having dinner in Edinburgh to use the 2213hrs departure and those attending concerts etc. to use the later one. ScotRail have done a full analysis of this, including finding train paths and costings, and this can be introduced (subject to formal approval of the train paths which are available) at no additional cost and looks almost certain to proceed. The train that works the 1943hrs departure to NB, and 2027hrs return would be available for any additional evening services to Dunbar. The proposed 2343hrs journey to NB would have to leave at 2350hrs as a clash with incoming services on the mainline would otherwise be apparent, but it would also mean a later departure from NB increasing travel opportunities for those dining out in NB. The later trains also result in an additional later connection from London to the NB line.
With regard to Dunbar, an additional evening journey would be required (doubtful if two could be economically justified) and this would require funding from Transport Scotland. Consideration of its timing would have to be carefully thought through – it could for example leave at 2243 or 2313 and potentially also stop at all stations en route to Drem and then to Dunbar rather than just Musselburgh. This would be included in the Dunbar improvements package mentioned above, but it is likely that the NB evening journeys will be introduced first, possibly on a Friday and Saturday only basis until the Dunbar evening enhancements when a Monday – Saturday comprehensive later evening service could be provided.
Resolution of the (so called) Driver Only dispute.
Unlike other rail companies who have a similar dispute, ScotRail have settled their dispute with the Trades Union(s) and trains will operate on the basis that drivers will open the train doors (which will save time) and the conductors will close them, meaning safety is not compromised.
In order that this can be achieved, staff training requires to be carried out, and in the Edinburgh area the North Berwick route is identified as the ideal route upon which to do this. The agreement with the Union(s) is that training will take place on 6 car units (2 x 3 cars) and if this goes ahead it will mean 6 car trains working selected NB services (which I believe will include peak time trains) between January 2017 and May 2017, when the service will revert to its current trains until the scheduled introduction of 6 car trains in May 2018. Some of the new Hitachi Class 385 trains will be available as additional stock for this purpose, the first one already having been delivered.
I have been asked by ScotRail for my views on this, as they are very concerned that when the 6 car trains will come off the line in May 2017 (required because Transport Scotland has contracted ScotRail to use these on the Edinburgh – Glasgow line) they will receive bad publicity along the lines of ‘they put them on and then take them off’. ScotRail has been subject to recent bad publicity some of which is seriously misinformed* (see below) and malicious and there is a jumping on the bandwagon by some opportunistic politicians and some sections of the national and local press. They do not want any more bad publicity. My personal view is that this staff training should go ahead along with full communication to the press and passengers. This is exactly the sort of thing that the CRP could, if they were in place, publicise from their own dedicated noticeboards.
(* Whilst some poor publicity may be warranted, especially due to missing reliability targets, and there is now an action plan in place to resolve this, basically ScotRail is a contractor to The Scottish Government through Transport Scotland who let their very detailed contract and decide the level of service etc.. For example, if we take the NB line over-crowding, the original electric units used were second hand from London and the South East, being high capacity suburban four car units seating 352 standard class passengers. There were replaced by Class 322 four car units, but because they had centrally positioned doors (two on each coach – the original Class 308 units had individual doors to each seat), each door took up 10 seats, so they only sat 285 standard class passengers in a 3×2 arrangement across the coach. The current Class 380 four car units only seat 265 (on a 2×2 basis, but the coaches are 9m longer) and this is largely accounted for having to include a disabled toilet and some cycle space with tip up seats and a wheelchair space and the fact that, in line with specification, there are only four seats abreast. So the reducing seat capacity of the trains is actually a major factor in current overcrowding and this was inherited from the previous franchise and is not Abellio’s fault but the fault of Transport Scotland and the previous franchise holder – First Group plc – who specified the units.)
Bus / rail connectivity
In order for full disability compliant bus / rail connectivity to be introduced at North Berwick, itself a fully compliant station, and required for new facilities under the Equality Act (2010), a clockface timetable is required for the trains, and this has recently been compromised with trains leaving NB at the following minutes past each hour: 20, 21,24,25,26,27 and 28, and leaving Edinburgh at 33, 42,43,45. It is necessary for a robust 8 minute connection time at NB to achieve disability compliant status between bus and train and vice-versa and having trains leave and arrive at non clockface times means this aspect cannot be implemented as it is proposed that the revised bus services will be clockface. ScotRail have undertaken to look at this situation – some of which is due to running of diesel units which are slower (due to training drivers on electric units), and others because of conflicting train movements on the main line, but some of these appear to take precedence over NB trains – eg. The 1845hrs is retarded from 1843hrs departure while an empty stock train goes in front of it to Motherwell from the Fife line when clearly it ought to be held instead. The concept of clockface timetables is accepted by Scotrail – some interim improvements will be made and it is proposed to fully review and possibly start from scratch a new East Lothian timetable for December 2018 implementation which will feature clockface times.
I had been advised that East Lothian Council has had difficulty in obtaining advance train times so that they could, if need be, change bus times to ensure connectivity is maintained. Scott Prentice undertook to advise Des Bradley, Transport Integration Manager at ScotRail, to add East Lothian Council to the list of who timetables are sent, and I mentioned Andrew McLellan’s name in this regard, but some firming up of that arrangement will be necessary. The finalised train timetables will be available 84 days prior to introduction, but a draft timetable incorporating almost all the changes will be available around 5 months beforehand, with the caveat that some changes may be necessary and they are only available for the Council’s own use.
The reduction of intimation of bus service timetable changes to the Traffic Commissioner from 90 days to 30 days for specified services involving connectivity is in the hands of Rachael Hamilton MSP who is looking into this matter. That legislation is out of date and also out of line with the rest of the UK.
Other matters discussed
When 6 car trains are introduced – potentially from January 2017 on a temporary basis – it will be necessary to withdraw the through services to Glasgow Central and Ayr. These only exist at any rate as the electric units are serviced in Glasgow and they simply run over there on service. They are currently turned at Slateford and the track layout there will not accommodate 6 car trains. I emphasised the need for train to continue to Haymarket as at present as those that do are well filled and this was noted.
Once the full new timetable is introduced in December 2018, the concept of running trains across Edinburgh is being looked at. The originally proposed, and the most efficient, way was to operate NB (and possibly Dunbar) services straight through to Glasgow Queen Street but this has been thwarted by Transport Scotland who have stipulated that the Glasgow – Edinburgh trains are all to be 7 (3 and 4 car units) or 8 (two four car units) coaches long, and with NB train being 6 coaches long, this cannot now happen. The newly electrified Dunblane line is to work with four car trains, so that too cannot link up with NB. There is a possibility that some link up with the Glasgow Central via Shotts line could be made at certain times of the day and this is being looked at without commitment.
Harry Barker 25th October 2016