The announcement from Fife Council that it will commit £5m to help maximise economic regeneration as part of the reopening of the Levenmouth rail link is welcome news. This funding will be matched by the Scottish Government to develop a Levenmouth Reconnected blueprint to boost social and economic growth in the area.
This approval of funding is an important step in progress to reopening the rail link. With a leadership group to be set up by the end of the year, I look forward to seeing the development of its strategy, involving consultation with local communities, businesses and groups.
I particularly welcome the continued involvement of the Levenmouth Rail link campaign group who have worked tirelessly to get the project to this stage.
I am calling on ScotRail to make improvements to Fife services ahead of the onset of winter, following recent increase in complaints and new figures showing poor performance in the region.
While the latest performance update from ScotRail showed across Scotland 89.1% trains met the rail industry standard public performance measure (PPM), figures provided by ScotRail on peak time services for the Fife circle show a number of services running well below that figure.
The 0736 service from Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh had only 58.6% passing PPM over the three months to end September 2019, while the 1742 service from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy saw just 22.1% passing PPM for the same period. This means just 19 of the 86 trains booked to run that service arrived at the final destination within five minutes of schedule, calling at all scheduled stops.
Across the 21 peak time services for which information was requested, only 5 services met the 89.1% PPM, with the remaining 16 services below this level.
The number of complaints I am receiving about ScotRail services in Fife is again on the rise. Delays, overcrowding and cancellations continue to occur all too often, negatively impacting Fife commuters, and the situation does not appear to be getting any better.
For far too long, Fife commuters have been subject to a sub-standard service and these figures are just further evidence of that. Late and cancelled trains mean people are left standing unsheltered on platforms waiting for trains that are often crowded and arriving late for work. With winter fast approaching, ScotRail needs to address these issues now and stop leaving Fife commuters
The decision to take forward the reopening of the Levenmouth rail link is very positive news. The reintroduction of a rail service will bring huge economic, educational, social and cultural opportunities to Levenmouth.
The announcement is testament to the determination and commitment of the Levenmouth Rail Campaign group. I have supported their campaign since I was elected in 2007 and am proud that Labour gave a commitment to reopening the line in our 2016 manifesto.
We recognised the strong case for the economic and social benefits it will bring to Levenmouth, and I am delighted that the Scottish Government is now convinced of the argument.
Ahead of the introduction of new timetables in parts of the rail network, including on the Fife-Edinburgh line, ScotRail is promoting upcoming increases in available seats for passengers through its introduction of more high-speed trains and class 385 electric trains.
However there are no planned improvements for passengers travelling on the Fife circle, where commuters continue to experience delays, overcrowding and cancellations. ScotRail is failing to address the frustrations of Fife passengers and continues to deliver a sub-standard service.
While increases in available seats might be good news for other passengers, I am really disappointed that there is no good news for Fife commuters. Fife is again forgotten about while passengers continue to travel on overcrowded trains and have to put up with cancellations. Fifers spend a significant portion of their income on rail transport and this service continues to be not good enough.
We need to see improvement on the Fife circle sooner rather than later and I will continue to push for the Fife service to either be brought up to standard or for travellers to have a fare cut in compensation for the ongoing poor service.