In the middle of the rush hour yesterday afternoon, a train derailed in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. Thankfully there were no passengers on board and nobody was hurt. However, the ensuing chaos which continues to envelop Scotland’s rail network is causing misery for commuters in Central Scotland.
Princes Street Gardens is one of the busiest stretches of track in Scotland, carrying every commuter train to and from the west and north – that’s everyone to and from Glasgow, Stirling, Perth, Aberdeen, West Lothian. A whole load of people. 23 million passengers use Edinburgh’s stations every year. You get the picture.
I’ve written about First Scotrail’s incompetence at the first sign of trouble on many occasions before and, unsurprisingly, they have fallen to their usual standards.
Last night my husband didn’t get home until 8 pm – and that was only because he got a bus to the west of Edinburgh (first time using his new bus pass) and I went to pick him up. He told me that it was the usual story – Waverley thronged with commuters wanting to go home and absolutely no information being provided to them by First Scotrail about what was going on. A friend of mine was also similarly stranded and said on her Facebook page that she’d been told that there was no replacement bus service because it was Network Rail’s fault, not Scotrail’s. Well, nice to know that in the midst of a crisis everyone’s playing the blame game first. Would it not be better, more satisfying, to work together to try to help out customers?
In these situations, you could be forgiven for thinking that Scotrail actually enjoy putting their passengers through hell. I’ve been told to walk to the other end of the station to catch a train and when I’ve got there, been told that it’s changed and I have to go back to where I’ve just been. This morning at Livingston North railway station, the website told passengers to go up to the road and wait for a replacement bus service to Edinburgh, while the information boards said there would be a train at 8:36 and people should wait at the platform. When people used the information service to question this contradiction, they were told in no uncertain terms that there would be no trains before 9am, only to say just a few minutes later that there would be a train at 8:36 after all.
These are just exactly the sorts of issues that arose during the snow – you would think that the company would have learned lessons from that debacle.
Instead, it seems to think that if the Glasgow – Edinburgh line is working, then they don’t need to bother themselves about anyone else. That was a common theme on my Facebook and Twitter feeds last night and one that’s been noticed in today’s Scotsman.
You would think that they would have some sort of business continuity plan in the event of a disruption in Princes Street Gardens that would be all ready to implement, with someone being given responsibility for empathetic, clear and precise communications to passengers. Instead, it seems to the passengers that Scotrail use the Decapitated Poultry method of crisis management.
And everyone’s being very quiet about this derailment. I want to know what caused it, I want to see the inspection records for that part of the track and I want it explained in detail why there is still this level of disruption 15 hours later
But, most of all, I want ScotFail to raise its game. Surely not too much to ask.