With a million train tickets up for grabs, April 1 was the day that the passenger travel company Abellio took control of the ScotRail rail franchise across Scotland.
As MSP of a constituency that relies so heavily on the local rail network, I will be keeping a close eye on the way that traveller’s needs are represented by the new franchisee and will be fighting for the best service that we can achieve.
Abellio has promised benefits for the Scottish network such as new trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh, service upgrades, better connectivity and journey times, innovative new fares, major station investments, a £1m community rail programme, and an employee gain share scheme.
In Aberdeen, the passenger transport company have pledged to deliver major investment in retail development to improve links between the station and Union Street. But we need to make sure that, across Aberdeenshire, the services needed by commuters are provided, and can be relied upon.
A slick timetable is essential to encourage people to use the network. Modernisation of the stops on the line will also mean that more travellers can rely on their local rail network for both work and leisure time – with knock on benefits for businesses. A recent example of this was the new ticket facilities installed at Portlethen towards the end of last year after much campaigning on my part. Getting more people using rail will also decrease traffic congestion on the roads which are a constant source of stress for commuters, as well as mitigating the effects of road traffic on the environment.
There may be 86.3 million passenger journeys a year on ScotRail but we must make sure that our new franchisee knows that only a high quality service will do for Aberdeenshire.