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Scottish Government steps into driver's seat at ScotRail


By Lorna Thompson

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THE Scottish Government is to take over the running of the country’s rail franchise.

ScotRail services will move into public sector control when the current franchise with Abellio expires, which is expected to be March next year.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson announced that rail services will be run by an arm’s-length company owned and controlled by the Scottish Government.

The decision to run the railways through what it known as the "Operator of Last Resort" has been prompted by factors including faults with the current franchising system, uncertainty from a year-long delay in the UK Government’s rail review and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Matheson said: "I have repeatedly stated the current franchising system is no longer fit for purpose. Keith Williams, who led the UK Rail Review process, has also said that ‘franchising cannot continue in the way that it is today’."

"Following a detailed assessment process and given the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, alongside the continuing delays to the UK Government White Paper on rail reform, 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."

ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish Government-owned entity, with their terms and conditions protected.

Mr Matheson added: "This approach will provide a stable platform for ScotRail services and certainty for passengers and staff."

An arms-length Scottish Government company will take over the running of ScotRail services next year, it has been announced.
An arms-length Scottish Government company will take over the running of ScotRail services next year, it has been announced.

Richard Lochhead, SNP MSP for Moray, said it was a bold move which "will bring welcome stability and certainty to those who use our railway for work and leisure, both in Moray and across the country".

He added: "The news that current ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish Government-owned company, with their terms and conditions protected, will also provide much-needed security to those who rely on our railways for their livelihoods.

"The SNP have long argued that the future structure of Scottish railways should be in Scotland’s hands. It’s well beyond time that the Tory UK Government listened and devolved rail powers to Holyrood.

"However, this move is both bold and welcome and will ensure Scotland’s rail users are provided with the well-run and reliable and service we rightly expect."

Johnbosco Nwogbo, of We Own It, which campaigns for public ownership of public services, said: "This move is fantastic news for rail passengers across Scotland.

"For far too long, Scots have suffered misery on the railway at the hands of Abellio.

"The Scottish Government has now put this to an end, and we can finally have a proper railway that's run for people not profit."


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