Contingency plan in place

Public body on standby to take control of rail network

ScotRail train Waverley
ScotRail: need for improvement (photo by Terry Murden)

Scotland’s railways could be taken over by a state-run organisation in the next round of bids, it has emerged.

Abellio, the Dutch operator of the ScotRail franchise, has been warned it could be stripped of its 10-year licence to run the franchise because of complaints over performance.

A break-point half way through the agreement means that by 2020 the Scottish Government has the option of putting it out to new bids.

Officials have begun drawing up plans for a non-profit public sector operator making a pitch.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Using new powers awarded in March of this year, Transport Scotland officials have started the work necessary to fulfil the commitment to ensure that a public sector body is in a position to bid for the next franchise.

“We will ensure that a public sector bidder is ready should either we or Abellio ScotRail take steps to invoke the break-point in the current contract.”

Public sector bodies or publicly-owned companies had been banned from bidding for franchised rail contracts under UK Government legislation.

While the Scottish Government remains unable to order a full renationalisation of the railways, the power to allow public bodies to bid for the ScotRail franchise has been transferred to Holyrood as part of the package of further powers promised ahead of the 2014 independence referendum.

ScotRail last week published an improvement plan for Transport Scotland promising to tackle issues over delays and overcrowding.

> Comment: ScotRail seeking more patience

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