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19 October 2016, 12:05
ScotRail is making an "incredible'' effort to improve the punctuality of trains on Scotland's railways, the head of the train company has said.
Abellio ScotRail managing director Phil Verster insisted he wanted the service operator to "be in a better place with train punctuality performance''.
He insisted it would "absolutely not'' reach the point where the number of trains running late could force the Scottish Government to end Abellio's contract.
Mr Verster also promised travellers would be "significantly impressed'' by new trains which are due to start coming into service about a year from now.
More than 19,000 people have signed a petition calling on transport minister Humza Yousaf to "make ScotRail bosses improve Scotland's trains or strip them of their contract''.
The campaigning organisation 38 Degrees said: "It is vital for Scotland that we have a train service that is affordable and runs on time.
"ScotRail bosses have been providing a poor service for months and the Scottish Government could be finally about to get tough on them.''
A total of 89.6% of all ScotRail services either arrive on time or are less than five minutes late, according to Mr Verster, just 0.7 points below the company's target of 90.3%.
"We're around 0.7% off where we want to be and we are putting an incredible amount of effort to recover that performance because we know how important that is.''
He said that a "massive increase'' in people using the trains resulted in capacity issues which has "contributed more and more to trains running slower''.
Mr Verster said: "In the next two years we are taking the fleet size from around 800 carriages to 1,000 carriages, that is a massive addition of capacity and on some routes such as Aberdeen to Inverness capacity will increase by 75%.
"Punctuality will be addressed over the next months and has already improved in the last four weeks.
"We are only about 11 months away from the first new trains being introduced on the railways, it's not two years, it starts in a year's time.
"Our customers are going to be significantly impressed with our transformation in the next couple of years.''
Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: "This petition should serve as a wake-up call to the SNP government. Scotland's rail passengers are fed up with the poor service they are receiving.
"A third of all routes in Scotland have services that are late more often than they are on time while the Scottish Government's cap on rush-hour fares has increased by over 23% since 2011, and Abellio is raking in a #1 million-a-month profit from the franchise.
"The Scottish Government received an improvement plan from ScotRail in September but services are still unacceptable.
"It is time for Humza Yousaf to explain to passengers what improvements he is going to make and when these improvements will take place.''