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Minister seeks efficiency

Yousaf demands local control over rail operations

Humza YousafTransport Minister Humza Yousaf will today call for more railway operations to be run from Scotland.

Mr Yousaf, who will be attending  the rural economy and connectivity committee later today, is expected to say further devolution of Network Rail’s functions under a unified management structure will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of railway operations in Scotland, saving around £100m a year.

The minister has faced severe criticism over the performance of the ScotRail franchise by the Abellio-Network Rail alliance.

He is expected to stress today that with Network Rail responsible for 54% of ScotRail delays, critical functions such as capacity planning, major projects delivery, timetabling, and legal and property management relating to Scotland, could and should be devolved.

Mr Yousaf said his call must be heard in the interests of Scotland’s rail passengers and protecting the public purse.

Speaking ahead of committee, Mr Yousaf said: “The Scottish Government have been arguing for greater accountability of Network Rail in Scotland – we fund and set out its objectives, yet as an organisation it remains unaccountable to Scotland’s Parliament. That position is simply untenable.

“I have stated my case again to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, but he has been unwilling to consider further changes here in Scotland until the Network Rail routes in England & Wales achieve what we currently have in Scotland.

“In other words he is saying that what we have in Scotland is the way forward. I however cannot sit on my hands – in the interests of Scotland’s rail passengers, we must act now. Further devolution will bring substantial savings of around £100m every year, so it is incumbent on us to seek to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness across our railway.

“Our case is also supported by independent think-tank, Reform Scotland, whose recent report flagged the inconsistencies with the current arrangements and concluded that fundamental change in the governance of Network Rail is needed.”

Mr Yousaf who has written to party spokespersons on the matter, added: “Political parties across the chamber must surely agree that the current arrangements fall short of what is required. I am seeking cross-party support in our efforts to secure the full devolution of Network Rail. We must act now to help ensure the rail industry here in Scotland is better placed to deliver for Scotland’s rail passengers.”

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