South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has accused rail bosses at Transpenine Express and the UK Government of treating rail passengers from Lockerbie station “like cattle” after receiving numerous complaints about overcrowding on services to and from Edinburgh during the Edinburgh festival.
The local MSP is furious that extra carriages have not been added routinely to services during the festival, despite a massive increase in passenger demand. The failure to increase capacity on trains has resulted in complaints from passengers about overcrowding, including passengers who booked tickets for carriages that subsequently weren’t even part of the train when it arrived at Lockerbie due to the promised number of carriages being cut from 8 to 4.
Passengers from Lockerbie have also complained to the local MSP that when passengers travelling from Edinburgh further south than Lockerbie raise concerns with staff on the train about overcrowding they are told they should be able to get a seat “after Lockerbie” because so many passengers leave the train at Lockerbie- suggesting that Transpennine Express regard overcrowding to and from Lockerbie as acceptable.
The increased number of complaints come at a time the Manchester to Edinburgh service has been included on the most recent list of the most overcrowded trains covering England and Wales, published in July by the UK Government.
Colin Smyth believes the buck for the poor services lies with the UK Government who are responsible for the franchise on the route from Manchester to Edinburgh and despite knowing of the overcrowding problem, allow Transpennine Express to run infrequent service to and from Lockerbie and more often than not use 4 carriage trains instead of 8.
Commenting on the complaints Colin Smyth, said, “I often receive complaints about services to and from Lockerbie, especially overcrowding, but the number has increased significantly during the festival. It is astonishing that TransPennine Express haven’t increased the number of carriages on services to and from Edinburgh during the festival. It isn’t as if they didn’t know about the festival”.
“I have had some constituents who booked seats for carriages that didn’t even exist when the train arrived at Lockerbie because it wasn’t the promised 8 carriage train but just 4 massively overcrowded carriages. I have had some passengers angry that staff tell people who are traveling from Edinburgh further south than Lockerbie that they will get a seat when the train gets to Lockerbie because so many people get off there. But what about those who use the station at Lockerbie? They are being treated like cattle by the rail company and UK government, simply herded on and off overcrowded trains. It’s just not good enough. Transpennine Express say they will be buying new trains but these won’t start to be introduced into Lockerbie until 2019, well after parts of the rest of the country”.
The local MSP believes that more services are needed between Lockerbie and Edinburgh to deal with overcrowding that also occurs out with the festival. He is angry that planned new services from December don’t provide enough additional services to and from Lockerbie, pointing out that there is currently an hourly service from Manchester to Edinburgh during the week that travels through Lockerbie, but fewer than half the trains actually stop at Lockerbie station.
The rail franchise for services is awarded by the UK Government who have the power to demand certain services. Colin Smyth has written to UK Government Ministers, David Mundell the Secretary of State for Scotland and Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport calling for improved services to and from Lockerbie, demanding to know why they continue to allow such a poor service and urging them to intervene.
Colin Smyth added, “There are no trains whatsoever to Edinburgh from Lockerbie between 10am and 2.30pm despite the fact several trains actually run from Manchester to Edinburgh through Lockerbie during that time but TransPennine refuse to stop at Lockerbie station. Passengers find it utterly bizarre that there is pretty much an hourly service from Carlisle to Edinburgh during the week that actually passes through Lockerbie but less than half of the trains stop there. The UK Government are responsible for awarding the franchise for these services and therefore the buck for the dreadful service Lockerbie passengers receive stops with the Government. UK Government Ministers like David Mundell and the Transport Minister Chris Grayling have the power to do something about this second class service and it’s time they got a grip and acted”.
The recent list of the most overcrowded trains in England and Wales published by the UK Government can be found here: