13 Cross-cutting issues and themes
13.1 Upon conclusion of the complete analysis, this final chapter has been provided as a succinct summary of cross-cutting issues and themes which have emerged through the analysis. An initial set of key themes was observed by Transport Scotland at the stakeholder events, and these themes were replicated in the 1283 responses to the consultation, with only a small number of additional themes emerging.
13.2 The cross-cutting issues and themes which arose across the consultation were as follows:
- quality of rolling stock for longer-distance journeys - linked to cross-border and sleeper concerns
- location of stations (both reacting to the closure issue and suggesting new stations)
- integration with other transport modes
- desire for through trains - both internal and cross-border
- provision of relevant passenger information
- the need for less fragmentation and more integration across the rail industry
- more community engagement and involvement in local rail stations
- improved reliability of services
13.3 The following sections provide a concise summary of these key issues which have arisen from the consultation.
Quality of rolling stock for longer distance journeys
13.4 Quality of rolling stock was an issue which was raised across the consultation in numerous formats and various contexts. Whilst there were instances of general discontent with rolling stock, the biggest areas of concern were in regards to rolling stock for long distance journeys. Respondents thought that the current rolling stock used by cross-border franchisees (East Coast, Cross Country and Virgin West Coast) was of a superior standard to the units currently used by ScotRail. They particularly appreciated the East Coast rolling stock.
13.5 Respondents expressed concern that, should the option of terminating cross-border services at Edinburgh or Glasgow be taken up, ScotRail might not be in possession of appropriate replacement units.
13.6 A substantial proportion of respondents noted that the requirements of long-distance travellers are significantly different from the commuter or short-distance market, with an emphasis placed upon comfort, cleanliness, room for luggage and buffet/refreshment facilities. In general respondents were not inclined to believe that current rolling stock available to ScotRail would be fit for purpose on longer distance journeys.
13.7 Respondents also responded that the Sleeper Service standards must be maintained.
Location of stations
13.8 Unsurprisingly, station locations and potential station closures was a key theme running throughout the responses to the consultation; this may have been in part due to media coverage which suggested stations located within one mile of another would be under consideration for closure. Many of the responses, particularly in relation to station closures, expressed strong opinions and pleas to keep stations in use.
13.9 A large proportion of comments protesting against potential closures were specifically related to stations on the North Glasgow Line, as well as others around Glasgow; this could reflect coverage in the local media.
13.10 In terms of rationale for closures, whilst most organisations and individuals were against the possibility of closures, the prevailing opinion was that potential demand and passenger use should be the key criteria to judge station suitability. These opinions, however, were often accompanied by the suggestion that closures should only happen after extensive consultation with the public and stakeholders.
13.11 Respondents also used the consultation as an opportunity to suggest locations for additional stations to be opened, and criteria which should be used to appraise the suitability of locations.
Integration with other transport modes
13.12 The issue of how to integrate rail passenger services with other transport modes was a recurring theme across the consultation, with respondents suggesting they would be more inclined to use rail services if an integrated public transport service was available. Respondents said that local feeder bus services often do not complement, or integrate with, the rail timetable and vice versa, which effectively increases journey times and acts as a barrier to rail travel.
13.13 This opinion was often raised at the consultation events and came through in the responses to the questions concerning the facilities required at Scottish train stations and community engagement. An integrated local bus network was cited as an important 'facility', whilst respondents tended to suggest that if public transport were better integrated it would be better used.
Desire for through trains
13.14 The desire for through trains was a theme which was raised, both throughout consultation events and in the full consultation itself. By and large respondents viewed changing trains as an inconvenience to be avoided where possible. Respondents also suggested that introducing more interchanges would lead to a modal shift away from the railways.
13.15 These opinions were most relevant on questions relating to cross border and sleeper services. Options within the consultation document suggested terminating cross border services at Edinburgh and providing onward connecting services. This provoked a large response that direct services should remain in place, one of the key reasons being that changing trains was a significant inconvenience for the traveller. These opinions were also echoed by equality groups who noted that older travellers and those with mobility problems find the requirement to change trains particularly difficult.
Provision of relevant passenger information
13.16 Another key theme apparent throughout the consultation was the need to ensure that there is accurate, timely and straightforward information available to passengers, both in terms of normal railways operation but also, and importantly, when delays and service disruptions occur. Respondents thought that more accessible service information would encourage greater awareness and hence use of the services.
13.17 Crucially there seemed to be strong views that, at times of service delays and disruptions, information provision is currently sub-optimal and there is a fundamental requirement for better dissemination of information about delays by all appropriate mechanisms. In particular, it was thought that there is a need to ensure that staff are made fully aware of the extent of, and reason for, delays so that this information can be passed on to passengers.
The need for less fragmentation and more integration across the rail industry
13.18 Various responses throughout the consultation events suggested feelings that there should not be multiple organisations effectively running/operating rail services.
13.19 Similarly, responses to the question relating to third party involvement with the railways suggested that respondents thought third parties should only be involved in areas where there is an obvious gap in the network. Suggestions included special tourist trips for instance. Responses seemed to suggest that opening up major service aspects across the network to other parties would be problematic. Considering the issues raised at the consultation events and in the consultation paper, there would appear to be a feeling that fragmentation of service operation would diminish integration across the network.
More community engagement and involvement in local rail stations
13.20 Local communities appeared to want to be involved in some way with the railway, with numerous consultation responses citing the success of the "Adopt a Station" scheme currently provided by First ScotRail. There was, however, recognition of legislation and access guidelines which preclude all but railway staff from some aspects of operation. However there did appear to be a willingness to support local involvement where appropriate.
13.21 A number of consultation responses suggested measures which would help make the railway station a focal point or hub of the local community. These ranged from the use of simple community notice boards to the use of vacant station premises to hold local events.
13.22 Related to this theme was the suggestion that stations should be staffed where possible. Respondents seemed to appreciate the personal aspects of a staffed station, which could seemingly play a role in community spirit.
Improved reliability of services
13.23 Service reliability, or lack of, was a key theme in the consultation responses; often aspects of reliability would make their way into answers to questions where reliability had no direct relevance. Overall, respondents appear to be dissatisfied with train reliability. There seemed to be a key distinction between journey times and reliability, with answers suggesting that the public do not have an issue with timetabled journey times, even if these are stopping services, the key issue is that services should arrive and depart when timetabled.
13.24 This point closely interweaves with the key theme of journey information: rail users do not want service delays, but when these occur they want accurate up to date information on how long they can expect the delay to last.
13.25 There were issues with the way delays are currently reported within the rail network, specifically the fact that late running trains are only classed as late if they arrive more than 10 minutes after the published time, at the final destination. Rail passengers thought that a train was late if it was running later than timetabled. Similarly, a significant proportion of respondents thought that late running services should be measured at intermediate as well as destination stations.