Responses - of a sort

16 February 2018

Inadequate response to Freedom of Information requests


In January Julian Paren submitted two Freedom of Information requests to the Scottish Government:

18 January  concerning singles sharing

Information requested
1.  any or all correspondence between Transport Scotland and Serco Caledonian Sleeper Ltd (SCSL) relating to the withdrawal of the shared sleeper cabin option for single travellers.
2.  any and all correspondence held in Transport Scotland relating to this change including but not limited to the initial request, internal decision-making process and outcome.

Read the full request with reasons

23 January  concerning Railcard discounts

Information requested
1.  any or all correspondence between Transport Scotland and Serco Caledonian Sleeper Ltd (SCSL) relating to the withdrawal of the use of Network Railcards for shared cabins from February 25 2018.
2.  any and all correspondence held in Transport Scotland relating to this change including but not limited to the initial request, internal decision-making process and outcome.

Read the full request with reasons

On 14 February Julian received a response from Darius Astell of the Franchise Management Unit to both requests together.  He summarised Julian's requests and listed what he was offering in response. 

l enclose a copy of the information you requested as follows:-

i. a summary of responses to a consultation document issued by Transport Scotland in 2014 prior to issuing Invitations to Tender for the current ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises;
ii. three individual responses to the afore-mentioned consultation document that specifically referred to single travellers being required to share with a stranger on Caledonian Sleeper services;
iii. an extract from a presentation from SCSL to Transport Scotland on 3 November 2016 referring to the withdrawal of the “share with a stranger" option from the new trains;
iv. an extract from a Ministerial submission of 20 January referring to the end of the “share with a stranger" product offer;
v. an exchange of E-Mails dated 5 and 17 September concerning the planned withdrawal by SCSL of discounts for holders of some national railcards when reserving shared accommodation.

Neither of the first two items relate in any way to the questions Julian asked.  The 'Ministerial submission' referred to in item iv seems to be from the Franchise Management Unit to the minister in January this year, explaining SCSL's proposals.  A huge amount of this submission has been redacted.  The last item consists of an enquiry from Transport Scotland about Family Railcards, with a more or less incomprehensible response from SCSL.

Read the response letter,  and the document which purports to be, but quite clearly is not, the information Julian requested.  He responded to others involved in the campaign:

If this is all that Transport Scotland can provide I am angry and amazed.  It would seem to me that Ministers are unaware of the whole picture and have allowed Serco to overwhelm them. 

He also highlighted a crucial event in May 2016, when SCSL successfully applied to Scottish Ministers for a derogation to the franchise agreement to allow them to withdraw the Standard class solo fare option.  This meant that for a single traveller the only alternative to possibly being required to share a compartment was to travel First class, and made it far easier For SCSL to subsequently argue for the withdrawal of the singles sharing option.  The Scottish Ministers should never have allowed the Standard solo option to be withdrawn.
 

23 February 2018

Inadequate response to John Finnie's Parliamentary Questions

On 2 February John Finnie MSP lodged a number of Parliamentary Questions asking for information and clarification on various points relating to the withdrawal of the singles sharing fare option and some railcard discounts.  The only questions which received adequate answers were those relating to reclining seats - these will be provided on the new trains - and 'pod flatbeds' - these will not.

The response to the question about railcards ignores a large part of the issue, and is couched in language which makes it almost incomprehensible, and the the question about what changes have been made to the Caledonian Sleeper franchise agreement is answered in terms which are so vague as to be insulting.

Read the full list of questions and answers  (not all questions have yet been answered).


23 February 2018

Julian's response to Transport Minister's reply to John Finnie

On 30 January John Finnie MSP received a reply from the Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to his letter about the proposal by SCSL to withdraw the singles sharing option on the sleeper.  John forwarded the minister's letter to Julian, who has now sent a detailed paragraph by paragraph response, questioning the validity of many of the minister's arguments.

Read the minister's letter to John Finnie, and Julian's detailed response.

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