Colin Smyth MSP
South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth has called on the UK Government Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, to intervene over proposed train service cuts at Lockerbie Train Station that will see services axed and passengers face a massive 22% hike in return fares.
First Transpennine Express have issued a new timetable that will begin on the 14th December this year. While there are new stops at Lockerbie station at 6.20am and 12.32pm to Edinburgh the current 10.32am and 2.31pm services will no longer stop at Lockerbie. It means there will be a four hour gap in service between the 08.35 am train to Edinburgh and the 12.32 pm service and a further four hour gap between the 12.32pm service and the 4.34pm train. First Transpennine have said that delivery of improved rolling stock will allow for the services to possibly be re-introduced from May 2020.
The axing of the 10.32 am service also means rail passengers travelling to Edinburgh will face a £6.90 hike in fares for an open return ticket. At present an open return at 10.32 am is classed as off-peak and costs £31.20. However, passengers will now need to take the 8.35 am service if they want to travel in the morning, which is classed as a peak service- even although it doesn’t arrive in Edinburgh until 9.40 am. An open return on peak services costs £32.80- 22% higher.
Last week Dumfries and Galloway Council backed a motion calling on the 10.32am and 2.31pm services to be retained. Now Colin Smyth is urging the UK Government to intervene and block the planned cuts. The local MSP pointed out that services are provided by Transpennine Express under a franchise agreement with the UK Government and accused the Government is failing to include a basic level of service from Lockerbie Station in agreement. He now wants Ministers to intervene, pointing out they have the power to change the franchise to require the company to maintain or increase services.
Colin Smyth said, “The buck for services at Lockerbie Station rests with the UK Government. They awarded the Transpennine franchise to First Group at a cost of millions to the taxpayer but utterly failed to include within the agreement a basic level of decent service from Lockerbie. That has allowed First Transpennine to axe these services, which the Government are turning a blind eye to. What will infuriate passengers is the fact that trains around 10.32 am and 2.31pm will still pass through Lockerbie Station but they won’t stop, treating Lockerbie passengers as second class. To make matters worse, if any passenger wants to travel in the morning from Lockerbie station to Edinburgh and come back the next day, they will face a massive 22% hike in fares because they will have to take the peak time services at 8.35 am. I have been contacted by someone who currently travels to Edinburgh for cancer treatment. They clearly need to travel in the morning. At present they use the 10.32am service but will now have to travel earlier at 8.35 am, paying nearly £7 more for their return ticket. When rail firms are now hammering people travelling to hospital for cancer treatment, you really do have to ask what kind of company First Transpennine are. I have written to the UK Government Transport Secretary calling on him to intervene to stop these cuts to services from Lockerbie Train Station. It really is time that the UK Government took responsibility and for once stood up for passengers and commuters from Lockerbie instead of being on the side of First Groups profits.”