Weekly Poll – ScotRail Temporary Timetable (Week Beginning 13 June 2022)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 13 June 2022, we asked a question about ScotRail’s introduction of a temporary timetable and the impact this had on disabled people and their ability to travel.

Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.

Results

Question. Has the temporary timetable introduced by ScotRail impacted your ability to travel?

  • Yes 48% (21 respondents)
  • No 52% (23 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Changes to journey plans

Respondents reported that the reduced timetable meant changes to journey plans; either spontaneous day trips were postponed, or planned trips were cancelled.  This included cancelling plans to meet family and friends as the last train of the day was scheduled to leave far earlier than planned.

“I have had to change my departure date, not only inconvenient but expensive. I am still waiting for a refund as they insist on recorded delivery ticket return, given I won’t get refunded postage (both ways), given I have to get the letter printed and ask someone to write the envelope; a poor show.”

“Going to Aberdeen; had to cancel.”

“The reduced rail service has been prohibitive for my partner, so we have not gone on any day trips or weekends away.”

“Had to cancel all trips to concerts and family visits as was unable to get home via train as our last train to Ayr was 10pm. Even now the trains are not as frequent as pre-covid.”

Post covid – already reduced service

Respondents compared the train service they benefited from pre-covid, to the service which had started to return before this reduced timetable was introduced. Many felt that the timetable had not yet returned to pre-covid levels and that the reduced timetable had just made things worse; particularly for those relying on trains for work.

“Prior to the timetable change, and since covid restrictions, only certain trains returned to the timetable which meant I could not get to work until 10am. The new timetable increased the time of changing trains between Stirling and onto Lenzie by a further 32 minutes, meaning I cannot get to work before 10:30am.”

“The lack of evening trains has been shocking and I’m just glad we aren’t relying on them for work.”

“Our station usually has four trains an hour both ways, as well as offering a local service to other close-by stations. The service is reduced to twice an hour both ways with some stations missing from local services, it is all very poor.”

Missed medical appointments

One significant impact of the reduced timetable was that some disabled people reported not being able to attend medical appointments because a train was not available.  This meant that disabled people missed out on vital medical appointments and could mean being placed back onto a waiting list, which could result in a lengthy wait for a new appointment.

“I was given a hospital appointment in Glasgow, which is 110 miles from where I live, but due to the problems with the trains, I could not get there.  I am too disabled to drive, but not too disabled to travel by train. They said I do not qualify for being taken to Glasgow by ambulance, because I am not too disabled to use trains. They said they cannot take into account that the early morning train has been temporarily cancelled, and they cannot bend the rules just for me.”

“Residents can no longer travel in a single day to attend medical appointments in Raigmore Hospital (Inverness), the Belford Hospital (Fort William) or at the various medical facilities in Glasgow or Edinburgh.”

“When you take into account the bus routes in rural and remote areas are serviced by coaches with steps, these vehicles are not accessible to wheelchair users. This means that it is impossible for them to attend hospital appointments; having to cancel appointments results in them being put back, meaning they can be waiting months, if not longer for a new appointment.”

For one disabled passenger, train staff were able to make special arrangements for an alternative train, which made an unplanned stop to allow this passenger to get off after their train was cancelled for a medical appointment.

“Coming home a few weeks ago, I was waiting at Stirling station to be told the train was cancelled. I was told I had to wait almost two hours for my next train. I had a medical appointment booked that evening. I have to commend the staff at Stirling station who went out of their way and managed to contact head office, and got me on an earlier train going to Inverness, and the train driver stopped the train at Carnoustie for me.”

Lack of confidence to travel

These types of scenarios, with cancelled trains and amended timetables meant that many disabled people were anxious to travel for fear of being stranded.

“Travelling has dampened my confidence, both for the frustration of not being able to get to work on time, but also the worry of not being able to get home if I miss the train, and there is not another train to follow.  Also, the uncertainty of setting out on a journey both to work and getting back home that there will not be a cancellation at the other end. This has happened several times, setting off in the morning, to find trains cancelled due to driver shortages or signal problems.”

“I do know of disabled people who have given up travelling in the train as connections are either impossible or they are afraid that they will end up stranded at a station far from their destination which isn’t disabled friendly.”

Increased car use

As a result of the reduced timetable, disabled people were opting to use their cars to make journeys instead. This conflicts with the aims of the Scottish Government which launched its aspiration to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030. To achieve this aim, Scotland needs a reliable, efficient and accessible public transport network.

“I have visitors coming from Germany and wanted to travel to the airport to meet them. Now we need to travel by car, pay parking charges for picking up, which have increased to £4 for 10minutes. This is no way to reduce our carbon footprint!”

“The assisted travel scheme is unreliable enough without adding a lack of trains into the mix. I’ve complained so many times to no effect, that we tend to take the car most places now.”

Attitude of ScotRail staff

There were also some comments about the general attitude and negative behaviour of ScotRail staff towards disabled people which has put people off traveling on the rail network.

“ScotRail are far from disabled friendly, and quite frankly the attitudes of some of their staff stinks; rude, ignorant, unhelpful, inconsiderate…being helpful is just too much effort.”

“I was told when I asked for help that “we cannot run trains for people like you as the trains would come to a standstill.”

Post covid concerns about travel

Many disabled people are still reluctant to return to using public transport post-covid, due to their own health issues and so choose not to travel by public transport at all.

“I am still semi-shielding, and hesitant to travel anyway. It would have n impact if I were in the office or going to work meetings.”

Conclusion

Disabled people rely heavily on public transport to make their everyday journeys.  The temporary timetable introduced by ScotRail had impacts on many levels.  For some, it meant being unable to start work on time, or changing plans to meet friends.  For others, more significant journeys were impacted which had cost implications for disabled people.  In other cases, medical appointments could not be kept, which could have more considerable impacts for disabled people who perhaps will have to wait substantial amounts of time to reschedule.

Above all, the changes to the timetable and the subsequent unreliability of the service across the rail network has left disabled people feeling anxious and without confidence to make independent journeys. Many reported feeling fearful of being stranded as trains are cancelled without notice.

In response to this, some disabled people have returned to using their private cars in order to make reliable journeys.