New Rail Franchise For Scotland
18 October 2004
First ScotRail set to deliver improved services for Scotland
ScotRail’s new operator, Aberdeen-based FirstGroup plc, launched the First ScotRail franchise today at Glasgow’s Queen Street station, marking a fresh start for Scotland’s railways. First ScotRail will deliver a £40million programme of improvements for rail passengers across Scotland throughout the seven year life of the franchise.
Half of the £40million investment package will be spent on upgrading stations, and a detailed plan of improvements to every station in Scotland will be compiled within the first three months of operation; in particular, £2.4million will be invested to provide enhanced facilities at Aberdeen, Edinburgh Haymarket, Glasgow Queen Street and Stirling stations.
To improve information and promote passenger safety and security, £5.4 million will be spent on the installation of Customer Information Systems, CCTV and Help Points at carefully chosen stations, as well as CCTV and Passenger Information systems on most trains.
In addition, there will be significant investment to improve the train fleet, with £7million being spent on reliability improvements; First ScotRail has committed to improve punctuality by 2% year on year, which is a key priority for passengers.
Commenting on the new franchise, Moir Lockhead, Chief Executive, FirstGroup plc, said:
“This is the first time since 1923 that a Scottish company has run Scotland’s railways and we are extremely proud to be taking over this stewardship. This is an exciting time for the rail industry and an important milestone for us; First is the largest surface transport operator in the UK, employing nearly 8,000 staff in Scotland. With a strong track record for improving train services we are confident that we can bring real integration benefits for the travelling public and deliver a seamless, efficient operation.”
Mary Dickson, Managing Director of First ScotRail, said:
“We are delighted to be the operator and are now focused on early delivery of enhancements in rail services for all customers, delivering a safer, more punctual and reliable railway throughout the franchise.
“Our immediate priority is to stabilise performance for customers, which will create a solid foundation for the future, with ongoing improvements in the quality of service throughout the entire life of the franchise”.
In advance of the start of the franchise, First has undertaken extensive cleaning of stations and trains to make an immediate improvement to presentation standards for customers, and 20 rapid response staff have been employed from the outset ensuring that stations are maintained to the highest standards. In addition, an extra 90 staff are currently being recruited to reduce fraudulent travel.
From day one passengers will see a visible change in passenger information, staff uniforms, great value deals and, for First Class customers, a better quality cup of tea and coffee. A new SMS text messaging / email service will be introduced shortly inviting all regular users the opportunity to be notified of any service variation relating to their journey before reaching the station.
First will work closely with the Scottish Executive and SPTE to improve services1 further including:
21 existing trains on the SPT network will benefit from refurbished interiors;
The introduction of the ‘Invernet’ rail commuter service from Kingussie and Aviemore to Inverness with a two hourly service to Tain;
Express routes between Edinburgh /Glasgow and Inverness and Aberdeen and commuter routes into Edinburgh from Fife, Bathgate and Dunblane will benefit from improved capacity and reliability from the introduction of new Turbostar trains;
Improved local services in the Aberdeen area, with additional stops at Portlethen and the extension of Aberdeen - Inverness services to Stonehaven;
The introduction of Larkhall – Milngavie services;
The introduction of Stirling – Alloa and Stirling – Motherwell services;
Introduction of four Turbostar trains on North Berwick line in April 2005;
Introduction of automatic ticket gates at Aberdeen, Ayr, Dundee and Stirling.
Additional plans include:
A new Customer Contact Centre, based in Scotland, to improve communication and provide information on journey planning;
The option to benefit from SMS text message / email alerts to provide real-time journey information;
Secure cycle parking facilities at every station and extra investment for car parking improvements at stations;
Promotion of further public transport integration initiatives.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The timetable change on 13 December 2004 will bring about the first service enhancements. The journey time of the first service from Aberdeen to Edinburgh will be reduced by over 30 minutes. The service will be re-timed to depart at 0600 rather than 0550 and the number of stops will be reduced to allow an 0824 arrival time in Edinburgh, 36 minutes earlier than the current 0850 arrival (0600 Aberdeen-Edinburgh will call only at Stonehaven, Montrose, Arbroath, Carnoustie, Dundee, Leuchars, Cupar, Kirkcaldy and Haymarket).
There will also be new morning and evening peak services between Stirling and Edinburgh which will run nonstop between Larbert to Haymarket (0733 Dunblane to Edinburgh and 1724 Edinburgh to Stirling). An additional half-hourly Hamilton-Anderston service will be introduced for Strathclyde Passenger Transport.
The First ScotRail franchise officially commenced at 2am on Sunday 17 October.
The Scottish franchise is one of the largest in the UK with more than 3000 kilometres of track, 650,000 train journeys a year and 336 stations.
FirstGroup plc is a UK based international transport company with a turnover of nearly £2.5 billion a year, and some 62,000 employees throughout the UK and North America.
First has invested more than £1billion in UK buses, trains and infrastructure in the past six years. Over the next three years we will be investing nearly £30million in a further 220 buses for Glasgow alone.
First is a major force in UK railways, operating First Great Western, First Great Western Link, Transpennine Express and First North Western rail franchises. The group also operates Hull Trains and GB Railfreight.
Carol Harris, Communications Manager
First ScotRail Tel: 0141 335 4788 Pager: 08700 555500 (808309)
Lesley Alexander/ Audrey Mill
Citigate Smarts Tel: 0141 229 7627 or 07968 525782