ScotRail has apologised to Buteman readers who were caught up in major disruption to train services to and from Wemyss Bay this week.
A fault with an overhead electricity cable in the Langbank area just before 8am led to the cancellation of all trains on both the Wemyss Bay and Gourock lines, with no services running west of Paisley St James station until well into the evening while Network Rail teams tackled the problem.
Operator First ScotRail organised replacement buses and taxis for all those travelling west of Paisley Gilmour Street - but the disruption, not surprisingly, didn’t go down well with passengers.
One, Holly Colhoun, emailed The Buteman on Saturday to describe what she said was “the most unpleasant travel experience I have ever had”.
“I arrived in Glasgow from Edinburgh at 3pm,” Holly said, “and was assured by ScotRail staff in Central Station that all trains after 4pm would run to timetable - this was incorrect. I arrived back in the station at 17:20 for the 17:55 train that was “on time” on my arrival.
“At 17:47 it was announced that the Wemyss Bay train had been cancelled, there was no further information given. I asked a (rather rude) Scotrail employee at the station if there would be another train to Wemyss Bay that night, he replied; “eh, yes.”
“I asked if that would be after the now cancelled 17:55, he reacted in a very confused manor [sic] and after checking the board to confirm it had been cancelled, he radioed to find out “what’s the situation with these Wemyss Bay trains?”. He told me to get on a train to Paisley Gilmour Street then pointed out a train that would take me there.
“I asked him if this would get me there in time for the replacement bus and he assured me that they were running with the times of the Wemyss Bay train. He then couldn’t understand why I was still concerned when I said that the train he had told me to get on would arrive after the time of the cancelled Wemyss Bay train.
“With 60 seconds left to get from the main boards to platform 14, myself and several others found ourselves running for a completely packed Largs train. This train was now filled - no standing space at all, people pushed up against the doors and down the aisles - with three trains worth of people as the Gourock trains had been cancelled too. It took five minutes for the train to pull away from the platform and the journey to Paisley took 25 minutes as the train was literally crawling through the journey.
“On arrival at Paisley we were herded into the tunnel that leads from the ticket desk down to the back exit. The tunnel was already filled halfway up with people waiting for buses with a small gap along the side to allow other passengers into the station.
“When I joined the back of the queue a bus arrived and brought the queue down to just about 30 people in front of me. A woman asked how long it would be until the next bus and a man that seemed to be in charge of organising the buses announced “just a few minutes until the next bus, folks”.
“I’m very open minded but I don’t believe that 40 minutes counts as “just a few”. When the next two coaches arrived it was announced that these buses were for Gourock only and that Wemyss Bay were to step aside as the next bus to arrive would be for Wemyss Bay only. This was not the case!
“After allowing a whole coach load of people in front we were then told everybody would be getting on coaches to Gourock then people for Wemyss Bay would be getting taxis. It was so unorganised and angered all of the Wemyss Bay travellers.
“Once we got onto the bus it became very clear that the Wemyss Bay travellers weren’t the only angry people, our bus driver was supposed to have finished at 2pm and now at 7pm was having to do another run to Gourock. When we arrived at Langbank he pointed out to a man getting off the coach that a Network Rail worker that was sitting in a van had been doing just that all day and hadn’t moved any of the times he had passed. It was very reassuring to see that they were so committed to fixing the problem!
“We arrived at Gourock at 19:40 where myself and three other people from Rothesay got into a taxi and stated we were for the ScotRail account. After getting a Scotrail employee to sign the order slip confirming we weren’t to pay we set off for Wemyss Bay.
“Halfway through the journey the driver answered a call from a very angry operator from the taxi company. She said that the account ScotRail were paying from was not the correct one and the payment had bounced then said: “Those people should never have got in your car without this account, even if they have signed off the journey we don’t have the account to pay for it, those people will have to pay for the journey.”
“The driver protested against this and told us “we better hope there is someone in the ticket office at Wemyss Bay”. Luckily the man understood it wasn’t our fault and let us out at Wemyss Bay with no payment.
“The whole situation was unpleasant and unorganised. I really hope First Travel’s [sic] complaint inbox is overflowing because that is the most unpleasant travel experience I have ever had.”
Writing on The Buteman’s Facebook page, Laura-Kay Maxwell said: “Was a riot! Staff were great though they all knew what was going on, although if u didn’t ask u didn’t get information. Took over 2 hours to get from Inverkip to Paisley then had to wait on a train which was packed full with people. On the way back u got a train to Paisley which changed platforms 2 mins before it was due to leave, then a bus to Gourock and they paid for a taxi to take people to Wemyss Bay. Good thing I only paid for a single for my whole days travel or I woulda asked for it back.”
A First ScotRail spokesman said the company was looking into the circumstances of the “small number of customer complaints” received, had provided travel information via Twitter, station screens, its mobile app, and on-train announcements, and had arranged for extra customer service staff at key stations on the route during the disruption - some of them working overtime and coming to work on rest days to help.
The spokesman added: “We apologise to anyone inconvenienced last Friday by the infrastructure issues, which were beyond our control.
“As soon as Network Rail notified us of the issue, we organised replacement buses - and provided taxis where required - to try to limit the impact upon our customers.”