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Lawrence Marshall letter to "The Scotsman" in response to Scottish Parliament urging that trains be classed as late after only 1 minute

posted 23 May 2012, 07:04 by Lawrence Marshall
Dear Sir

Whilst I have no doubt that MSPs on the infrastructure and capital investment committee (your report, 21 May) thought that they were acting in the best interests of rail travellers when they urged that any train more than a minute overdue at its destination be classed as late (as opposed to the current 5-10 minute threshold), I fear that in practice they will by this decision have made it yet more difficult for new stations and services to be provided to meet the needs of Scotland's communities.

The privatised and fragmented railway lives by "delay attribution". When a train is late, a cause must be assigned - and the culprit fined. Each train operating company and Network Rail employ staff specifically to argue their corner so that they minimise the penalties imposed on them. Ever wonder why the conductor sees you running for the train but closes the doors anyway? Or why your connecting train leaves just as the late train you're on pulls in alongside it? That's delay attribution for you!

On a wider canvas, therefore, if a train is to be deemed late after only a minute's delay, then the train companies and Network Rail will be very loathe to open a new station or introduce a new service which could impact upon train punctuality on an increasingly congested network. The opening of Edinburgh Park station was delayed for years by just such a dispute.

I very much hope that those seeking the betterment of rail provision in Scotland will not come to see this decision as very much a phyrric victory. Be careful what you wish for.

Yours sincerely

Lawrence Marshall
Capital Rail Action Group
50 (3F1) King's Road
Edinburgh EH15 1DX
Tel.: (0131) 669 1336