Running late: why ScotRail needs to stop apologising and start providing

Written by Gemma Fraser on 20 December 2018 in Comment

Commuters don't want excuses, just a rail service they can rely on, writes Gemma Fraser

Image credit: Flickr

Being the social media manager at ScotRail must be one of the most thankless jobs in Scotland right now.

A quick Twitter search produces a back catalogue of complaints, abuse and horror stories from angry commuters up and down the country.

Cancelled trains. Delayed trains. Overcrowded trains. A combination of all three.

And – more worryingly – people are actually posting on social media if they are ‘lucky’ enough to get a seat or are on a train that’s left the platform on time.

It came as no surprise to me when it emerged ScotRail had to pay out more than 65,000 compensation claims for delayed trains in the space of nine months – an average of 232 per day.

And that’s only the people who bothered to make claims – that figure is most likely only the tip of the iceberg.

My own daily commute involves dropping two children off at two different locations before jumping on a train into Waverley.

It really says something that the most stressful part of my morning routine is not wrestling a stubborn 20-month-old toddler into a car seat, or cajoling a six-year-old into putting on her school uniform while there’s still some of 2018 left.

No, the stress comes with worrying whether a) the train is going to be delayed; b) the train is going to be cancelled; and c) the train is going to be so overcrowded that even if it does show up on time, I can’t get on it anyway.

When trains are cancelled, it’s not just a mild inconvenience. It’s letting down colleagues. It’s rearranging early morning meetings. It’s putting pressure on your workload.

Just the other day, Edinburgh businessman John McKee, of Hanover Healthfoods, vowed never to employ another rail commuter because an employee he relies on each day to open the shop has to let him down regularly because of train delays.

And while that might sound a bit OTT, I can see his point.

Even worse for me is when the train home from work is cancelled or delayed.

Both my daughters need to be picked up from their separate childcare providers by 5.45pm prompt.

What happens if I’m late? The after-school club staff and nursery staff have to stay late, which has a knock-on effect on their own evening timetables, which may also involve collecting children from childcare.

And that’s not to mention the fine I would receive to cover the staffing cost for however long they had to stay late to look after my children. Do I get compensated for that?

I have joined the band of angry commuters taking to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

But the overly-polite and apologetic response from ScotRail’s social media team makes me even more irritated (nothing personal, I’m sure you’re very lovely people) because an apology just doesn’t cut it.

Once, when I expressed my anger about being late for the nursery pick-up, they replied that they were sorry they had “disrupted my plans” – like it was simply delaying a trip to the supermarket.

Commuters aren’t interested in excuses. They don’t care why their trains aren’t running on time. And they are sick of meaningless apologies.

So stop saying sorry for your failures, ScotRail, and start providing a service that we can rely on.

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