New agency

ScotRail to be nationalised as franchise cut short

ScotRail

Rail services will be run by a government agency

ScotRail is to be brought under public ownership after the government confirmed that the current franchise will end early.

Dutch state-owned firm Abellio will stop running services at the end of March next year and will be replaced by an “arms-length” Scottish government company.

Abellio has been running the franchise since 2015 but had its contract ended early amid criticism over cancellations and performance levels. The company laid much of the blame on disruption caused by huge investment in infrastructure. In recent months performance has improved.

Under the change of ownership ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish government-owned entity.

The arrangement is being made under powers which allow the Scottish government to take over the rail franchise without a bidding process.

Michael Matheson

Michael Matheson: ‘stability and certainty’

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said he was not able to say how long these “operator of last resort” arrangements would last for.

He said: “I have decided that it would not be appropriate to award a franchise agreement to any party at this time, either through a competition or a direct award.

“That is why I have confirmed that, from the expiry of the current franchise, ScotRail services will be provided in public hands through a company wholly owned and controlled by the Scottish government.

“This approach will provide a stable platform for ScotRail services and certainty for passengers and staff.”

Scottish Conservative shadow transport secretary Graham Simpson said: “The SNP Government must be entirely honest about how much this will cost taxpayers and clear about what demonstrable benefits it is expected to bring to passengers.

“While the primary consideration is for Scotland to be served by a modern and efficient rail service, public finances are precious and finite.

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