This week's letters to the Advertiser include your thoughts on Hermitage Park, ScotRail and the Winter Festival.

To have your say on any local issue, email with 'Letter' in the subject line and we'll publish the best in our next print edition.

Please remember to include your name, address and a daytime phone number in case we need to check any details at short notice.

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Some years ago the Helensburgh skating pond was refurbished at a significant cost. It was then abandoned to be neglected to the extent that it is now a swamp.

Colquhoun Square was recently remodelled as part of the CHORD project; at the Helensburgh Community Council meeting on Thursday I heard a call for volunteers to weed the flower beds in the square as Argyll and Bute Council will no longer maintain them.

Today I was walking along Victoria Road at Hermitage park and stopped to watch what was going on there. A workman told me that they were creating a maintenance access point to what will be a ‘Kitchen Garden’.

This is on the site of what was the children’s play park. Ask yourself, are we wasting a lot of money? Will these new facilities in Hermitage Park be properly maintained once they are put in place; if not, why are we doing it in the first place?

There is little point in creating a large and expensive garden if it is to be allowed to become overgrown by weeds.

Dougie Blackwood, Douglas Drive East, Helensburgh

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Although I live and work in Helensburgh I regularly use the local train system. For anyone other than a casual user the service is letting down the town and the wider community.

The problem starts with the rolling stock which are largely Juniper ‘Class 334’ units. These were flawed from the start. Travelling regularly means that you notice a variety of faults with these trains.

First and foremost there are the toilets. Trains run regularly from Helensburgh to Edinburgh and back without a working toilet. On a journey of one hour and 50 minutes this is both unacceptable and disgraceful.

I have written to Abellio several times on this issue and get a different reply each time. The latest correspondence was via a local councillor who got the following reply.

“Reliability of toilets on Class 334s – Our engineering team has kicked off a fleet examination to check the operation of all Class 334 toilets. They are now around half way through this and should hopefully be finished within the next 4-6 weeks.

“Any defects that are highlighted are rectified prior to the train leaving the depot.

“As part of this check and to hopefully improve on toilets being locked out of use due to no fresh water, we have reduced the running time of the tap. This should hopefully extend the time the toilet can be operational between tanking.

“When the units are running in three-coach formation, there is an increased risk to the toilet being locked out of use with the fresh water tank emptying quicker due to increased use. Any trains that are highlighted as having no fresh water are targeted at the end of work.”

Frankly, this just isn’t good enough. I had hoped that promised new investment by Abellio would include better rolling stock on the North Clyde lines. On this topic Abellio said the following:

“To provide some context I would note that, compared to other electric trains in Scotland, the Class 334 units are relatively ‘new’ having been constructed between 1999-2002. At present I understand that only the Class 380 (2009-2011) used on the Ayrshire and Inverclyde lines are newer, while the Class 314 units (1979) used in Inverclyde and Class 318 (1985/86) and Class 320 (1990) used on the Balloch services are significantly older.

“The class 334 fleet, which is only midway through its life, will continue to operate on Helensburgh services for the foreseeable future. All trains are being refurbished (the first few units have already completed) with improvements including at power sockets, free on-train WiFi and dedicated bicycle spaces.”

Again this isn’t good enough and we are being stuck with trains which are flawed and not fit for purpose on this route. Another example is that there are times when it is problematic sticking 2 Juniper units together to form a 6 carriage train. This can and dose lead to delays especially if a train is already late arriving in Helensburgh.

Currently there is an issue with trains by-passing certain stations. Abellio commented on this as follows:

“Skip stopping - There is a common misconception that stops are removed when trains run late to enhance our performance figures. Any train that fails to call at its scheduled station stops fails its Public Performance Measure (PPM).

“This is then classed as a part-cancelled train and there is no performance benefit to that train in removing stops. In essence, we cause it to immediately fail its PPM. Any intermediate stops are removed to recover our train service when late running occurs.

“We have always been required to intervene when late running occurs on the network to restore “on-time” running for our customers. Where we have a train running outside of its scheduled operating path, if we don’t intervene it can delay other on-time trains causing disruption to spread across the network and inconveniencing even more customers.

“Our control office has software that identifies conflicts on our network where trains are running outside their scheduled operating paths, and offers suggested intervention to minimise the disruption to our customers overall.”

Add to all of this the lack of basic information when problems do arise and it makes for an overall miserable experience.

Helensburgh is set to get a boost in population associated with new staff and their families at Faslane. Helensburgh is being sold to both Navy staff and civilians as a commuter town with good transport links to Glasgow and beyond.

As local people know only too well the road system can be difficult and trains should be a better alternative. Unfortunately we are being sold short by Abellio and this needs to change.

Abellio need to ensure working toilets on all of their trains. When problems arise they also need to communicate better with customers.

Drivers are supposed to advise travellers on the train when delays occur. Similarly station staff should be able to keep people informed.

On both counts Abellio have failed miserably. Abellio get public subsidies and travellers pay a lot of money. Everyone on this line needs a much better service.

Howard Young, East King Street, Helensburgh

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Argyll and Bute Council appear to be doing everything in their power to destroy Helensburgh businesses.

The 7 million pounds spent on Chinese granite for the pavements did not result in throngs of visitors to the town.

The CHORD project caused major disruption throughout the town centre for two years.

That we have any shops in Helensburgh town centre is a tribute to the resilience and determination of the owners who have survived CHORD and an out-of-town supermarket.

These survivors need support, not further assault on their businesses.

The Winter Festival is the latest misadventure in business support.

We have a fishmonger, greengrocer, butchers and multiple cafés in Colquhoun Square and within a short walk of the square.

We don’t need a market shutting the town centre for a weekend and featuring imported fishmongers, greengrocers, butchers, coffee suppliers, burger vans and more – all competing with established businesses.

Thanks to the difficulty in parking in the downtown area during the festival, the traditional suppliers who depend on the usual Saturday trade see less footfall rather than more as their customers stay away from the congestion in the town centre.

The Winter Festival is a good idea and is supported by public money. But the public’s money should not be used to undermine existing businesses in the town.

John Black, Woodhollow House, Helensburgh

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Regular readers of the letters columns of this newspaper will recall the insertion of a recent letter of mine, explaining the camaraderie of those who had served in the Royal Navy.

I explained that this could be re lived at the various reunions held around the country and that these were listed on the site.

Well thank you to all of the local newspapers; you have certainly scored and made a lot of ex-servicemen think back again. They have emailed me on and the secretaries of various associations have contacted me.

The consequence? A lot more reunions are listed. I can see a lot more old shipmates re living their past experiences!

But that is not all. Following a request about a Reunions Listing for those who have served in the Royal Air Force; there is now one available by email. Not many on it at present, so ex RAF? Let’s have those reunions emailed to me on – with the date, location, association name, and who to contact. It shows the printed word works!

Mike Crowe (RN Shipmates), Sandown, Isle of Wight