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Matheson terminates Abellio’s ScotRail franchise

electric train class 380

New electric trains have been introduced

Abellio’s contract to run the ScotRail franchise will end early in March 2022, it was announced today.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs that the service may revert to the public sector following failures by the Dutch state owned company to meet targets.

The Scottish government is exercising a break clause allowing for the contract to be terminated three years early.

Mr Matheson, addressing the Scottish Parliament, said he wanted to “get rid of franchising”.

Opposition MSPs have been calling for an end to the ScotRail franchise with Labour insisting the network is taken into full public ownership.

Labour MSP Colin Smyth said passengers were being let down and his party’s vision was to put the travelling public first, not profits or private companies.

Abellio has insisted “significant progress” has been achieve since it took over the franchise.

Michael Matheson

Michael Matheson: ‘we must get rid of franchising’

However, earlier this year it was forced to agree an improvement plan following being served a remedial notice after major problems on the network.

Mr Matheson said more than £8bn has been spent since 2007 on rail and a further £5bn between 2019 and 2024. This will improve capacity and reliability, he stated.

In a statement Mr Matheson said: “Our rail network is of significant social, economic and environmental value to the people of Scotland, and Ministers must ensure that the services we secure are high performing, financially sustainable and offer value for money.

“We currently provide around two thirds of the running costs for our railway and it is essential that this is sustainable going forward. Our record investment in rail is already delivering more seats, more trains and more stations.

“Any changes to the level of subsidy paid by the government must deliver new benefits for passengers and taxpayers and whilst there have been improvements in recent years, the proposed changes were not sufficient to justify additional subsidy.

“Of course, the Scottish Government must plan for the future of our rail services, beyond 2022 and work is already underway to examine the options open to us in this regard.

“Longer term, this Government has already made clear its position that the current franchising regime, which is a matter reserved to the UK government, has failed and it is widely accepted that the rail industry, as a whole, must embrace reform.

“The best way to deliver this is through the transfer of all rail powers, which would allow us to work together to find the right solution for our railways in future – properly integrated and fully aligned with the public interest and Scottish Government policy.”

The rail industry is currently awaiting the outcome of the Williams Rail Review which is led by the UK Government.

Abellio – ‘wrong decision’

Abellio said it believed the decision was the wrong choice for Scotland’s railway and its customers.

“Abellio has invested more than £475million in new and upgraded trains, added 23 per cent more seats for customers and created more than 500 extra jobs in Scotland since the start of the franchise in 2015 – the biggest investment in trains and stations in over 150 years,” it said in a statement.

“Our offer to Transport Scotland would have delivered an improved service for our customers at a reduced cost to the taxpayer.

“We will remain fully committed to running a safe and reliable service until the end of the contract in 2022. While this decision creates unnecessary uncertainty for more than 5,200 staff and our customers, we will maintain our focus on delivering vital projects for Scotland’s Railway and seeing through the delivery of significant customer benefits until 2022.”

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