First new ScotRail trains (contributed)

Scotland’s rail services could be taken into public ownership under a plan unveiled by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf.

An option being considered is to put the ScotRail franchise under the control of a public body such as ferry company CalMacPublic, Lothian Buses, or the Glasgow subway.

Mr Yousaf is preparing a public sector bid, when the contract held by Dutch firm Abellio ends, according to a Sunday newspaper.

The Scottish government is also looking at a public-private sector partnership to run the service which has been heavily criticised during a huge modernisation programme.

Mr Yousaf was forced to apologise to passengers following widespread disruption on ScotRail services and the company was fined £483,000 for failing to meet required targets.

However, the proposed shake-up has emerged in the week that ScotRail has revealed that ScotRail has outperformed services elsewhere in the UK.

For the four week period up to 24 June, 92%of Scotland’s trains met the industry target, against 90% for the same period last year and 88.6% in England and Wales.

Perry Ramsey, operations director at The ScotRail Alliance, which is a partnership with Network Rail, said:When we are undertaking the biggest upgrade to Scotland’s rail network since Victorian times, this is an impressive performance and confirms that we continue to deliver for our passengers.

“This performance is a testament to the hard work of our dedicated staff, who work tirelessly to make sure customers can travel on Scotland’s railway with as little fuss as possible.

“The major improvements we are making to our service – from the electrification of the Glasgow to Edinburgh line, to the delivery of new trains, to the upgrades to stations all across Scotland – will ultimately mean faster journeys, more seats and better services for Scotland’s passengers.

“We know any disruption can be frustrating for passengers, but all the work we are doing just now is helping to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.”

New trains are under construction and due to be introduced this year.

Ministers have faced calls to strip Abellio of the 10-year ScotRail franchise it took over in 2015 in a 10-year deal worth up to £6bn but with the option to cancel it at the halfway point.

Mr Yousaf told the Sunday Herald:  “We have narrowed down the possible vehicles that could potentially take forward a public sector bid.

“Transport Scotland are now working on gathering further evidence and I will narrow down the options further once that exercise is complete.”

Mr Yousaf has previously said the Scottish government does not have the power to fully renationalise rail and that the service has to go out to bidders for tender.

Mick Hogg, Scottish organiser of the transport union RMT, said that Mr Yousaf’s plan would be a “stepping stone” for full nationalisation of rail.

He told the paper: “We want to see the re-nationalisation of the railways. We have a strong sense that Humza Yousaf is speaking our language and is ticking the right boxes. This Scottish model could be a stepping stone for the railways being taken back into public ownership.”

Labour welcomed the development but said it wants to see the railway nationalised.